The lawyer daughter (named Mickey, after Mantle) gradually starts to act a lot like Dad, and though you’ll see this development coming from a mile away, it’s still fun to watch as she adapts to circumstances. A vegan, she starts scarfing hot dogs, hanging out in roadhouses, and proving to be as much of a pool shark as a boardroom one. There’s a nice scene in which Gus pitches her a baseball, and she slugs it deep into the outfield, to his pleased disbelief.
Eastwood is obviously having as much fun playing Gus as he did Walt Kowalski, and though he didn’t direct this film (which is by Robert Lorenz, who has served as assistant director and producer of many of his boss’s films), Trouble with the Curve has the all-American spirit you expect in one of Eastwood’s better efforts. Occasionally it can be a little sappy, and the ending comes in out of left field, but there are so many great scenes featuring the Eastwood snarl and verbal takedown that you’ll forgive its flaws. (Among these are Justin Timberlake, who plays another scout who blew out his arm as a young pitcher and begins to take a shine to Gus’s daughter. Timberlake is still a little hard to take seriously as an actor.)
Eastwood’s films tend not to get a lot of credit for their dialogue but Clint has always cared about words, and screenwriter Randy Brown has an excellent feel for this growling old bear. Asked why he refuses to consult a specialist about his failing eyesight, Gus replies, “You read in the paper about how they’re always taking the wrong part off some guy.” After he throws his furniture around in frustration, he describes the result as exactly how he wanted it: it’s trendy “Fang Shmay.” In a nicely self-deprecating line to a barroom bully who gets a little too touchy with Mickey, he says, “Get out of here before I have a heart attack trying to kill you.”
The movie winds up predictably, far too much so for the movie to have a chance at Oscar glory, but when Eastwood isn’t trying to be too fancy he can be just about perfect. Cantankerous, curmudgeonly, and conservative, Gus is another funny, tough, and memorable Eastwood figure. He may be in his 80s, but as an actor Eastwood can still knock it out of the park.
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