September 21, 2012
United States (English)
Directed by Robert Lorenz
Written by Randy Brown
"Trouble with the Curve" has trouble with the clichés but the relationships between the characters, and the fine performances behind them, make this worth your while.
Clint Eatwood is back in "Gran Torino"-mode as he plays Gus, a seasoned baseball talent scout for the Atlanta Braves. As he scowls and growls his way through life, his daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) has a tough time strengthening their relationship, which has been on the rocks since her mother passed away when she was only six. (Eastwood makes Tommy Lee Jones' character from this year's "Hope Springs" seem like a bundle of joy by comparison.) If anything, Gus helped his daughter develop a love for the game as she came with him on many-a-scouts.
The general manager for the Braves is considering advice from his advisor and a much young scout. They use computers while Gus keeps stacks of books and papers in his home. This competition forms the film's painfully obvious antagonist. When Mickey learns Gus is suffering from early signs of glaucoma she takes time away from her prestigious law career, and advances from her boyfriend, to spend some quality time with her dad as he follows minor league prospects in North Carolina - this is made all the more pressing with an upcoming draft.
Justin Timberlake plays Johnny, a former ball player turned scout after an injury. he shows up at the same games as Gus and Mickey in his New York license plated ride (he's looking to net someone for the Mets). After a game he reminds Gus who he is and is all the more pleased upon meeting Mickey. There you have it, the dominos are all set up and I sat there hoping that they would fall in an unpredictable fashion, but they absolutely do not.
Luckily for me, "Trouble with the Curve" like last year's "Moneyball" is not like a typical baseball movie. We do not have to follow the trajectory of an underdog team's season, which I am more grateful for than I can tell you. Rest assured, this sport is the backdrop for all the drama and the one thing our characters have in common (a favorite game between Mickey and Johnny is to stump each other with trivia from "America's favorite pastime"). There were three baseball nuts seated right behind me (they spent the half hour before the premier discussing players) and they seemed to get all the inside jokes and references, so that might be an added measure for those interested.
The relationship between Gus and Mickey is certainly compelling. Eastwood's roughness entertains (why is it when "old people" crassly speak their mind we all laugh?) and the great scene where we first see him really smile is simply sunshine. When we see how hard it is for Gus and Mickey to connect there is genuine concern to be had. Furthermore, the chemistry between Adams and Timberlake (who I think is is just as good an actor as he is a musician, see "The Social Network") feels truer than most Hollywood films. The primary problem is that at the end of the day (er, film) we are torn between a by-the-numbers father-daughter relationship and a by-the-numbers romance. I was far more interested in the former.