Trouble with the Curve
People still watch and read Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz even though they stray far from reality. So who cares if this is closer to a fairytale than real life?
We get to see superstar Academy award winner Clint Eastwood (Gus), as a septuagenarian baseball scout and absentee father and Oscar®-nominated Amy Adams (Gus’s daughter, Mickey, an attorney named after Mickey Mantle, Gus’s favorite player) play off one another for almost 2 hours. With both at the top of their games, who could ask for more?
Adding to the fun is singer/actor Justin Timberlake (Johnny) who adds this as another good acting credit with an appealing performance as a washed up former ballplayer turned scout who falls for Mickey, and with whom he has a prickly, tenuous relationship.
Gus is a legendary septuagenarian baseball scout who is losing his eyesight. Mickey feels ignored and unloved. When Gus is sent toNorth Carolinato scout a promising, arrogant high school superstar, Bo Gentry (effectively played by Joe Massingill), Mickey takes time out from her job to help Gus out. But Gus doesn’t think he needs any help.
What results is a fine tale of relationships. Elevating the quality of the film are fine supporting performances by John Goodman, who plays the chief of scouts for Gus’s employer, the Atlanta Braves, Matthew Lillard, who plays Phillip, a Machiavellian ambitious scout out to torpedo Gus, and Robert Patrick, who plays Vince, the apparent owner of the Braves. Lillard, in particular, does a fine job as the hateful Phillip.
There’s not much actual baseball action in this film, but what there is is relatively realistic. This is not a baseball movie and one need know nothing about the game to appreciate it. In fact, the denouement is really something that could only come from aHollywoodscreenwriter’s brain. But, as I said at the start, who cares? This movie has wonderful performances, a sweet, syrupy story, and a rewarding ending. What more do you want from a movie?
Writer/director Bill Ayer seems to like attacking the police in general and the LAPD in particular. One of his prior films was writing the script for director Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day (2001) that highlighted bad cop Denzel Washington. Training Day did not present an appealing picture of the policemen who made up the LAPD.
“The thing about the cop genre — we haven’t seen what they really do at work,” Ayer says. “We’ve seen whatHollywoodthinks they do. We’ve seen every other cop movie … where you gotta have the scene where two cops argue about jurisdiction.” He wanted to show what the job of being police in a bad part of a big city is really like.
“These guys see mayhem and carnage and are faced with incredible psychologically destructive situations, and then they have to go home and put work into a relation three-tier ship,” Ayer says. “Somebody who can do that successfully to me is a fascinating person.”
But the problem with this film is that Ayer shows the typical LAPD cop as being an over-the-top vulgarian who can’t utter three words in a row without two of them being the F word. One of the most foul-mouthed movies I have ever had the misfortune to sit through, this presents an LAPD comprised of immature people straight out of Animal House. That’s a shame because the action is intense, the cops (Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña) are shown to have good hearts, and the incidents that they have to deal with are shocking.
Today’s directors seem to think that in order to be realistic, language must be from the gutter. Frankly, my experience with the LAPD is that they are generally extremely professional. I know at least two LAPD cops and they are nice, good people. I’ve never known either of them to use the F word even once.
The film goes into the private lives of both officers, showing Peña’s wife, Gabba (Natalie Martinez), and the relationship between Gyllenhaal and his girlfriend, Janet (Anna Kendrick), apparently trying to humanize them. But from the way they speak and act when they are on the job, it takes a lot more to “humanize” them than just showing that they are capable of loving relationships with women.
With a more mature person than Ayer this could have been a terrific movie, showing the things that ordinary policemen have to go through in a day’s work and how it affects their humanity. Alas, Ayer with his proclivity for profane dialogue and for inventing childish, churlish behavior by policemen was not the person for the job.