Amy Adams and Clint Eastwood in "Trouble With the Curve."
Something has happened to Clint Eastwood. No, not the envisaging of furniture as possessing of human thought and feeling. Not just that, anyway. Something has happened to how we see him.
As a director, Eastwood hasn't been galvanizing us for a while. “Invictus,” “Hereafter,” “J. Edgar” — these are movies that haven’t exactly had many of us running to theaters. But we've still wanted to watch him.
Coming into this weekend, Eastwood had starred in two movies ("Million Dollar Baby" and "Gran Torino") since his late-career renaissance began roughly a decade ago. Each of them grossed at least $100 million at the domestic box office.
PHOTOS: The movie career of Clint Eastwood
The number of movies to achieve the same milestone out of the seven he’s directed but didn’t star in over this period? Zero. We don't necessarily want to see what Clint creates the way we once did. But we still like seeing Clint.
At least, that was the case before this weekend. "Trouble With the Curve," the story of an aging baseball scout and the bond he tries to forge with his adult daughter (Amy Adams), should have played to Eastwood’s strengths, commercially speaking. He was in it, but he didn’t direct it.
Yet the movie's a clear disappointment, taking in $12.7 million and coming in behind even a lower-budget cop story and a poorly reviewed horror movie. You have to go back to the actor’s ill-fated mystery period more than a decade ago — “Blood Work,” “True Crime” — to find that kind of wide-release tepidness.
It’s tempting to view this sputtering as the result of Republican National Convention weirdness, the residual effect of a man who seemed too shill-y to half the electorate that disagreed with him and a little strange even to the half that thought he was right. But actors do polarizing things all the time and still perform OK at the box office; Sean Penn’s made a career of it.
More likely, Eastwood fatigue is the result of a man going to the well on the same idea one too many times — particularly the redemption well. You know the narrative: growl-y curmudgeon just wants to be left alone, but reluctantly finds a little light thanks to well-meaning younger people, often women.
You know the narrative well, in fact, because Eastwood has followed it several times before, including on “Million Dollar Baby” and “Gran Torino.”
Eastwood pledged to stop going in front of the camera after that latter movie. I, and I suspect many of us, don’t want that. He still has skills in reserve -- a smoldering intensity, a manner that makes him seem world-weary and resolute at the same time. We still want him to act. We just want to see him act a little differently.
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