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Watchable but don't get too excited.
on 15 December 2013
This only just succeeds, and then only because of Eastwood's enduring magnetism in front of the camera. This isn't one of his greatest performances, an old man, playing an old man being old, but carries the film nonetheless.
Early on we get a glimpse through his eyes, the blurred vision of macular degeneration. He's fighting it, with the characteristic Eastwood snarl, but his job, as a baseball scout, is under threat from younger rivals. He's hanging in there, his judgement and experience still sharp.
And this, for me, is where the good stuff ends. The remaining characters and story are forced into the remaining space around the main character, and there are fundamental problems with credibility. The big one is baseball. Half the film is on the baseball field, the storyline follows the pursuit of an up and coming future star by rival teams, and with baseball written into every line of the script you might have expected to get at least some feeling of realism. My very limited knowledge of the sport was enough to make me realise that there was nothing real going on and that it was all made up by a scriptwriter who knew nothing about the sport.
The relationship between the main character and his daughter suffered from a similar lack of credibility. Clint Eastwood's strength as an actor is in his portrayal of guts and determination, indignation, anger, resentment. He doesn't do exploration of hidden deep feelings. This was ok when she was trying to talk and he was refusing to engage, but when, inevitably, the barriers come down it just doesn't work. Fortunately Justin Timberlake is on hand to take over the romantic stuff, except, wait a minute, this is a film with Clint Eastwood and Justin Timberlake, and guess which of the two of them does some singing? The romance, when the youngsters are allowed to get on with it, is tolerable, but that whole aspect of the film would barely fill ten minutes of a tv rom drama.
So what else is there about this film? 'Hollywood ending', doesn't quite do justice to the ridiculous amount of magic wand waving at the conclusion. You're left feeling that the whole thing was pretentious rubbish, which isn't entirely fair.
When this film came out last year it received two star reviews in the newspapers and I'm glad I didn't pay to see it at the cinema because it would have felt like a waste of time and money. But having just recorded it from sky movies, it was ok. And it proves that Clint Eastwood can still carry a movie.