I love Amy Adams. I just think, I think she is the bees knees. She’s just swell. I loved her in Sunshine Cleaning, I loved her in The Fighter, I loved her in Doubt (where she ALMOST upstaged another fantastic and venerable actress – Meryl Streep….ALMOST) , I loved her in Julia and Julia (where she gave another good attempt at upstaging Streep again, but shes just too good), hell she even managed to make the suck fest that was Leap Year not stink QUITE as much. I can’t speak for Enchanted, which sort of put her on the map, but she probably wasn’t half bad in that ridiculous movie either. She is just wonderful. I actually forgot that she was in this movie when I went to see it tonight however, because I went to this movie to see Eastwood’s show. He seemed to pretty much just be channeling his angry character from Gran Torino, like maybe if that guy hadn’t gotten shot the hell up at the end, he would have been a baseball scout instead. Oh I didn’t ruin anything for you there, shame on you if you haven’t seen that movie (arguably Eastwood’s best aside from the god awful singing he does at the end credits, but he is forgiven for that since he even directed that masterpiece) and I don’t feel bad if you didn’t know he died at the end, you already should have. And admittedly, that movie was the main reason I went to go see this one…well that and I love baseball. Like, reaaaally love baseball. So this movie had me hooked from the first preview – Eastwood AND baseball? Might as well have said “this movie is for JASON” before they ran it, I was THERE man.
So I never even mentioned Amy Adams in all of that, did I? Which was why she surprised me in this one, came out of left field, you could even say. OH! See what I did there? I made a baseball reference in a review about a movie about baseball. That’s why they pay me the big bucks. She played Eastwood’s daughter in this perfectly, she nailed it. So much so, that she even upstaged Eastwood’s own performance, which, and this hurts me to say but, read other reviews and they’ll likely tell you the same thing….he sort of mailed this one in. He didn’t direct this one and he’s pretty much a master of directing himself, so maybe it was just the material he was given, but like I said, wasn’t quite convinced, didn’t buy what he was selling. He just played the same disgruntled old man he has in a couple of movies now, but I don’t know, his heart just didn’t seem in it. Now Adams on the other hand…wow. She played the stubborn, standoffish, not gonna-let-anyone-in-cuz-I-have-daddy-issues type absolutely perfectly. We first see her buried in her work, not ever having time for a social life or a boyfriend, much like her father had been when she was growing up, just not really there for anyone. And the first scenes with her and Eastwood establish all of this, why she is the way she is – she lost her mother at six and Eastwood just winged it on trying to raise her and uh, didn’t do a real bang up job, she survived anyways, just like most of us do.
Well, Eastwood, who is actually 82 in real life, crazy right? is starting to have some trouble, starting to get old. He’s losing his vision, he bangs into things, can’t drive so well, etc. Some of the standards of growing old, but him being the old bull he is, he just shrugs it off and doesn’t need any help. Adams’ feels a dysfunctional sort of responsibility for him, much like any woman probably would if she was raised mostly by her father. So the bulk of the movie is spent with her spending time with him to see if he can still do his job, because there are concerns from higher up, played by his longtime friend Pete, played by the always good John Goodman, and also a new young gun wanting his job, played almost entirely TOO well by Matthew Lillard (but I never liked him much anyways, so thats fine – I wanted to punch him in The Descendants too), with their boss being The Terminator. She grew up with the game anyways since she always went to work with her Dad, and loves the game just as he does. Another fairly decent supporting character here was played by Justin Timberlake, who I still have a bit of a hard time seeing on screen if he isn’t singing crappy pop songs, but I’ll admit I’ve mostly embraced him as an actor, he isn’t half bad, especially in these two movies. He plays the (naturally) potential love interest for Adam’s and also a previous prospect of Eastwood that couldn’t play anymore, so he became a scout himself. He does a pretty good job here of playing the charming guy that maybe Adams needs in her life if she opened up a bit.
So with mentioning the whole potential love interest dealie, I’ll get to my main problem with the movie, and why it didn’t quite knock it out of the park (oh my god, TWO baseball references already, I am KILLING it!) for me as I walked out of the theater – it is pretty much riddled, bullet-riddled even, with cliches. Eastwood’s character is the way he is because he lost his wife at such an early stage, ok, I can buy it, if he wants to convince me. He doesn’t. There is a downright cheesy, almost entirely BAD scene where he sings “You are my sunshine” to her grave, that just falls flat. The song comes up later too, but I don’t think it even needs to be there. Eastwood has the range and hell, just the FACE to show he can be a broken down old man, we don’t need this scene. We also don’t need the frat guy, almost creepy idiot that Adams considers marrying just because “it would look good on paper” – yeah, he actually says that – we already know she is pretty much a guarded mess because of the way her relationship is with her father, we see it enough in those scenes enough not to warrant some jackass lawyer pushing her to get married – you’d think he needed his green card or something, jeez. It has a few loose ends like that kinda bugged me.
But, and this shouldn’t surprise you judging by all the gushing I did about her right from the start – this is why the movie ultimately succeeds and why I can recommend it to you without any reservations. Adams is brilliant in this movie, hell maybe she even DID have an absentee single father growing up, cuz wow, does she nail this part. She easily steals the show entirely from Eastwood, no easy feat. Her character is believable, damaged, guarded, and I bought it completely. There are scenes where she tears up and tells her father honestly how she’s impacted his life, and where Eastwood again sort of strikes out (that would be three baseball references in three paragraphs now, for anyone counting) in these scenes too, just playing the “I don’t have time for this” card too often, Adams truly shines. She is a special talent in Hollywood and I really don’t think she is in enough movies even though she is in quite a few. This is a different sort of role for her too, and proves her versatility.
Given my new penchant for not just rehashing the plot to you in these reviews, I’m not going to say much more. This is, of course, mainly about a father-daughter relationship, but it’s also a pretty loving tribute to baseball, it’s no Moneyball in that it isn’t the central focus, but for someone who really loves the game like I do, there is enough passion here about the sport that even if you didn’t buy into the whole relationship thing (but you will, trust me), it’s worth seeing just to see the varying degree of love the people in the movie have about this great past time. For Lillard’s douchey character it is just a job, but for nearly everyone else, even The Terminator, they are doing what they love. And of course Adams’ character comes to one of many realizations about herself in the end, and one is that she truly loves the sport just as much as her Dad does.
The movie is wrapped up a little TOO nicely as well, and the third act felt a little rushed – but maybe that is just because we had a too long first act with all those loopholes no one cares about, because this is a fairly long movie – but aside from the warm and fuzzy feeling you are supposed to get with everything being wrapped up neatly, it still works pretty well. This movie isn’t going to win any Oscars and I’m not sure if it can go up there with the great baseball films like For The Love of The Game, The Natural, or Bull Durham – don’t really think I need to link that one…and yeah that’s right, I didn’t really like Field of Dreams much, DO SOMETHIN!, but it’s worth seeing just for Adams’ masterful portrayal of her character. And gosh, she sure is real pretty, too.