Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Trouble with the Curve Review, or "Clint Pees and Amy's in Her Underwear. That's All I Needed."

When the opening credits started on "Trouble with the Curve" I knew that I'd be writing a review for the film. And, as is the usual when I plan on writing the review, I take mental notes on every thing I see as I see it. Of course, I often start to guess at whether or not I'm going to like the film.

As the film started, and we were introduced to Clint Eastwood's character, I was beginning to have my doubts. You see, I like Clint Eastwood a lot. I enjoy many of his films and I think he's had a pretty cool career. He's made the movies he's wanted to make, he's been a lover, a fighter, and a general bad-ass in many of his roles. So I kind of admire his filmography.

But seeing him as the crotchety old man struggling to take a piss wasn't that appealing. At least not on its own. As I witnessed this first scene with him, I had a bad feeling for the rest of the film. But that was when I erroneously thought he was the main character.

If you've seen the trailer, you've understood the basic premise; this is a story about a strained father-daughter relationship and a mini-road trip that will fix it. It has all the mixings to make a fairly generic emotional piece, even having a little baseball Americana nostalgia thrown in for good mix. I'm not saying that the filmmakers didn't have anything really to say about anything with this film, but let's be honest with ourselves when we say this was bound to be something a little bit on the generic side.

That said, the thing that kept me really waiting for something good to happen was Amy Adams. I make it no secret that I positively adore her. I really do. She has some of the greatest range of any actor in Hollywood and can really add a sense of depth to whatever role she's playing.

Look at the film "Enchanted". That film is not half as good if not for her. In fact, I would argue if not for her performance, the film would actually have been kind of bad. Decent premise, but the shortcomings of the script needed an actor who could really bring every little bit of depth out of the performance to sell everything about the story.

Much is the same here in "Trouble with the Curve". Look, there are some good actors in here. John Goodman, for whom I've many times professed to have a man-crush, Robert Patrick, who has a lot more subtlety than he's given credit for, and Matthew Lillard, who can actually bring a good performance when he wants to. But the film couldn't rest on them. And that's why I began to really buy into the film when Amy Adams' character was becoming more and more involved in the story. Soon, I realized, the opening of this film, and a good portion of the first act, were really just to establish this old guy and his foibles. The meat of the story would be the young woman, his daughter, played by Amy Adams.

And she would do what Amy Adams does best. Steal every scene and dominate the film. And it was her performance that drove us forward. What we get is a fairly solid film. It's not great by any standards, but it's very watchable and, this is important, likeable. I like the relationship between Eastwood and Adams. They play off of each other very well, and all of the best scenes, save for some work by John Goodman, are involving the father-daughter character combo.

Now, in terms of structure, you've seen that I mentioned that the movie really focuses on Eastwood in the beginning, and this is one of a few structure problems that are present in the movie. The movie relies too heavily on Adams to bring the depth that you feel like you want a little bit more in the beginning with her. Just to get to know her a little better. As well, the handling of Justin Timberlake's character wasn't the best. He did a fine job, and continues his streak of proving me wrong when I expect him to annoy me, but his subplot with Amy Adams felt odd. We get some build up to a romance, which is fine, and a sweet moment of them swimming in a pond, including Amy Adams depanting herself to follow an almost naked Timberlake, but after  the predictable conflict that erupts towards the end of act two, the denouement for the romance between these two characters was this forced scene that felt like an artifact from a bad rom-com.

There is another reveal in this movie, one that sort of tells us why Eastwood has been such a bad father and, without spoiling, this reveal comes out of nowhere. You have no real build up to it, save for a few quick flashes into a memory that uses imagery that has no real connection to the event. It was used for a quick effect, trying to exploit pre-determined biases in the audience, but had no other connection to the story. I think the audience would have been satisfied just having Eastwood be an emotionally distant father, instead of having this bizarre and out of place reveal that the audience had no warning of.

Technically, the movie is one of those Hollywood standard movies. Nothing really amazing to speak of in terms of photography or imagery. It was generic, but that was probably to be expected. Eastwood didn't direct this film after all.

Still, problems with structure and lazy writing aside, this film is actually decent. It's not one that you need necessarily rush out to the cinema to go see, though I certainly didn't regret seeing it there, but it's a very easy rental if you can wait that long, which shouldn't be that hard unless you're a die hard Eastwood or Amy Adams fan. Give it a shot for a decent father-daughter road trip movie.


Brit W.

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