Outstanding performances in 'Trouble With The Curve'

Like a fine wine, Clint Eastwood gets better with age.

Now in his early 80s, the screen icon and Oscar-winning director continues to work tirelessly behind and in front of the camera.

Some of his best work has been reserved for the past 10 years, including ‘Million Dollar Baby’ with Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman, ‘Letters From Iwo Jima’ and ‘Gran Torino’, in which he plays a cantankerous Korean War veteran.

Eastwood essays another short-tempered curmudgeon in ‘Trouble With The Curve’, a beautifully crafted sports drama that is as every bit as old-fashioned as the leading man.

Scripted by Randy Brown, the film marks the directorial debut of Eastwood’s long-time producing partner Robert Lorenz, who wisely chooses to focus on the actors.

He is rewarded with terrific performances from Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake and the prolific John Goodman, and of course Eastwood, who clearly relishes the role of an ageing, technophobic baseball scout, who takes one look at a hotly tipped pitcher and scoffs: “I’ve seen all this guy’s got. My daughter can throw better than that!”

Gus Lobel (Eastwood) is considered old-fashioned and inflexible by management at the Atlanta Braves, including general manager Vince Freeman (Robert Patrick) and his sidekick Phillip Sanderson (Matthew Lillard).

“We all hate to think it. He may be ready for pasture,” coldly remarks Phillip.

However, the club’s scouting chief Pete (John Goodman) trusts Gus and fully supports the decision to send Gus to North Carolina to assess a slugger with attitude called Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill).

Pete asks the old man’s daughter, Mickey (Adams), to accompany her father on the trip.

She discovers that Gus’s eyesight is failing and he has kept this secret from his employers for fear they will consign him to the scrapheap.

With a big promotion on the line, Mickey joins her father on the road, becoming his eyes as he searches for the next big thing.

In the process, Gus and Mickey cross paths with former pitcher Johnny ’The Flame’ Flanagan (Timberlake), who now works as a scout for the Red Sox.

The young pretender takes a romantic interest in Mickey and threatens to distract her from the serious business of scouting.

‘Trouble With The Curve’ is predictable and at times pat but there’s an undeniable pleasure watching the stellar cast tease out the best in each other.

Eastwood and Adams are a fiery double-act, wringing genuine tears from their characters’ miscommunication, and the romantic sub-plot with Timberlake doesn’t smear on too much gooey sentiment.

Scriptwriter Brown throws his own curveball in the closing minutes as, neatly stitching together plot threads so there’s a comforting sense of closure for us and them.

Star Rating 3½

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