A Broken-Down Old Man

20 Sep

If you thought Clint Eastwood talking to an empty chair at the Republican National Convention was bizarre, then just wait until you see him in Trouble with the Curve.

In the opening moments of the film, the actor stands in the bathroom, looks down, and talks to his penis. “Don’t laugh,” he tells his poorly functioning organ. “I outlived you, you little bastard.”

Really? Yes, really.

This is the guy who played Dirty Harry, who won Oscars for Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby, and who used to be one of the most respected actor-filmmakers in the business.

What happened?

He got old, that’s what happened, and he didn’t age well. Now, Eastwood is stuck in grizzled old-guy mode. His last big-screen role, in Gran Torino, reduced him to a one-note caricature. Trouble with the Curve digs him even deeper into that hole.

This latest film (which Eastwood did not direct) tells the story of an aging baseball scout named Gus (Eastwood) who’s lost his wife, who’s losing his vision, and who’s on the verge of losing his job with the Atlanta Braves because the team is moving more toward a computerized, numbers-based form of scouting (the kind dramatized in Moneyball).

Essentially, it’s an old guy vs the young hotshots story, in which Clint’s old-fashioned methods go up against a new way of thinking. I’ll bet you can’t figure out which way will win out in the end. (Here’s a hint: The red-state viewers of the film will be very happy.)

But Trouble with the Curve is not a baseball movie as much as it’s a family drama about Gus and his daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), and how these two try to find common ground even though he’s still as emotionally absent now as he was physically unavailable for her growing up.

Despite Mickey’s attempts to break through to her father, Gus keeps on growling, grunting, and stubbornly resisting changing his ways, retiring, or paying attention to his failing health. Oh, and as if talking to his penis wasn’t so bad, he also talks to a car and a hamburger, and sings “You Are My Sunshine” at the gravesite of his late wife. It’s not charming or even sad. It’s just comical, and not in a good way.

The prospect Gus and his peers spend the entire movie obsessing about is a completely unlikeable bully who proves he isn’t as good as the hype. Justin Timberlake, as a good-guy younger scout, doesn’t ever seem to fit in. And screenwriter Randy Brown tries to pair up Timberlake and Adams, but that’s about as forced as a screen romance can be. Oh, and if the whole thing weren’t so predictable, I’d accuse the film’s title of being a giant spoiler too.

It all adds up to an exercise in patience, and watching it, you’ll likely have about as much of it as Gus has for his younger counterparts.

I miss the younger Clint Eastwood, the guy who didn’t complain as much, and who carried himself with more honor, class, and grace. Trouble with the Curve shows that this once compelling man has unfortunately become almost unwatchable.

I’m giving the film a C–.

6 Responses to “A Broken-Down Old Man”

  1. RJS September 20, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

    Great review. Was curious about this one. FYI I notice a typo. Should be Gran Torino not Gran Tornio. Just in case this gets picked up by a big outlet!

    • Martin Lieberman September 20, 2012 at 9:00 pm #

      Thanks! And thanks for the heads up about the typo. I’ve fixed it.

  2. Rebecca Smith September 21, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

    I think your review is spot on…Unfortunately, the LA Times delivered one of their synopses posing as a movie review and didn’t really have one intelligent thing to say. I mean they actually said that it wasn’t such a bad thing that the script was so trite you could see the plot points a mile away because this gave Clint room to “act”.

    But the NY Times seemed to be on your page.


    • Martin Lieberman September 21, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

      On the same page as the New York Times? I can live with that. 😉 Thanks!


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