David Gritten reviews Trouble with the Curve and Sightseers

By David Gritten , Friday 30 November 2012

Saga's film expert, David Gritten reviews Clint Eastwood’s latest movie, Trouble with the Curve and takes a look at the British film, Sightseers.

Trouble with the Curve

He’s been involved in the film business for almost 60 years now, so Clint Eastwood must surely know that old show-business adage “Leave them wanting more.” These days, Eastwood cuts a venerable figure at age 82, but I rather fear he’s in danger of leaving us wanting less from him.

His last directing efforts – Invictus, J. Edgar and the dismayingly uneven Hereafter – all left a lot to be desired. And this return to acting, following a four-year break after Gran Torino, is again a distinctly mixed blessing.

I say this as one who has revered Eastwood over the years. In many respects, he’s the greatest and most enduring movie star of the past half century. Others have come and gone, but he remains. No-one plays macho men with comparable economy and conviction. Behind the camera, he’s a sensitive, thoughtful director, as evidenced by such films as Mystic River and Flags of Our Fathers.

Trouble with the Curve is a baseball movie, with Eastwood playing a grouchy veteran scout uncomfortably reminiscent of the curmudgeon he played in Gran Torino. Eastwood’s Gus Lobel travels to high schools in North Carolina, living on the road and eyeing up potentially promising talent.  As you’d imagine, he’s an old-fashioned guy, whose experience tells him the quality of a pitch by the sound it makes when it connects with the bat. Not for Gus the statistics-based Moneyball approach to the baseball, beloved by computer geeks; he likes to go and watch games, the better to judge a player’s character.

It doesn’t help that he’s gradually losing his sight. And his workaholic lawyer daughter (Amy Adams) is worried enough about him to join him on the road, which cramps his style. She tentatively embarks on a romance with a younger scout, played by Justin Timberlake, who offers weak jokes, then grins contentedly at his alleged wit.

This is pretty creaky stuff, though the modest, slightly shabby world of minor league baseball is captured knowingly. And admittedly it’s a story with a good heart. Trouble with the Curve is best viewed as an Amy Adams movie, and her previous performances in films as varied as Enchanted and Junebug have already marked her as an actress always worth watching. She’s the best reason to see Trouble with the Curve, for all its dollops of sentiment and predictable narrative. It’s a pleasant enough experience, though it never hits one out of the ballpark.

Sightseers

I won’t even pretend that Sightseers is targeted at a Saga-generation audience; its tone is hinted at by its grisly deaths being played for laughs, which marks it as an example of post-Quentin Tarantino film-making.

Still, it’s rather droll in parts, and its British director Ben Wheatley is a man to watch – a film-maker with a definite assured style.

The plot doesn’t amount to much – Chris and Tina (Alice Lowe, Steve Oram) a homely thirtysomething couple from the West Midlands, take a road trip around Britain in his caravan, taking in such delights as the Crich Tramway Museum and the glorious Keswick Pencil Museum. What Tina doesn’t know is that Chris is a man on a short fuse, and people who annoy him tend to meet their maker in bloody fashion. It’s this uneasy mix between banality and murderous violence that gives Sightseers its distinctive flavour. 

Wheatley shoots British landscapes intriguingly, lending them a dark, rather austere quality. He’s a talent, beyond question. But Sightseers is very much an acquired taste.

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David Gritten on film

David Gritten has been Saga Magazine’s film critic for 10 years and also writes for the Daily Telegraph. He lived and worked in Los Angeles for 10 years, and edited Halliwell’s film guide for 2008-09. Fred Astaire, Billy Wilder, Martin Scorsese and Pedro Almodóvar are among his film heroes.

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