Trouble with the Curve
Directed by: Robert Lorenz.
Written by: Randy Brown.
Starring: Clint Eastwood (Gus), Amy Adams (Mickey), Justin Timberlake (Johnny), John Goodman (Pete Klein), Matthew Lillard (Phillip Sanderson), Robert Patrick (Vince), Joe Massingill (Bo Gentry), Chelcie Ross (Smitty), Raymond Anthony Thomas (Lucious), Ed Lauter (Max), Clifton Guterman (Neil), George Wyner (Rosenbloom), Bob Gunton (Watson), Jack Gilpin (Schwartz), Scott Eastwood (Billy Clark), Jay Galloway (Rigo Sanchez), Brian F. Durkin (Matt Nelson).
I don’t care how many chairs he talks to, I’ll always be a Clint Eastwood fan. He keeps threatening to retire as an actor and only work as a director – Million Dollar Baby (2004) was supposed to be his last in front of the camera, but then he returned for Gran Torino (2008), which again was supposed to be his last, but he’s back again in Trouble with the Curve. While from a prosperity stand point, he may well have been better served by making Million Dollar Baby his acting swan song – probably his best performance ever – and while Gran Torino and now Trouble with the Curve are really more of Eastwood playing on his own iconic image, I can’t say I wish he hadn’t done them. Trouble with the Curve is a standard issue baseball movie about the clash between old ideas and new, and a standard issue relationship drama between a quiet father and his adult daughter (Amy Adams) yearning for a connection with her father, and also a standard issue relationship drama about an overworked young woman (that would be Adams) falling for a guy who makes her loosen up and have fun (Justin Timberlake). There is nothing in this movie you don’t see coming from a mile away. But because all three of these actors, not just Eastwood, are so damn good, I find that I don’t really care about that. I just sat back and enjoyed watching them work.
Eastwood plays Gus, who has been a scout for the Atlanta Braves for decades, signing some of the best players in their franchise’s history. But he’s getting old – his eyesight is going. There’s a new kid in the scouting department, Philip (Matthew Lillard), who, like the characters in Moneyball, uses his computer to analyze players. Gus hates this – he says you need to see a player to know who they are and how they play. A computer can’t tell you that. Gus’s one friend in the organization is Pete (John Goodman), who argues that Gus knows baseball scouting better than anyone – and he’s still up for the job. In a last ditch effort to save his career, Pete sends Gus to see Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill) – a hotshot high school prospect that Philip believes is the next Albert Pujols. The Braves have the second pick in the draft, and if the Red Sox pass on Gentry, Phillip wants to take Gentry. Nervous about Gus’s ability, Pete reaches out to his daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), and tells her it would be nice for her to spend time with her dad on this trip. She is a lawyer, busy preparing a big case that could make her a partner – but she decides to go along with Gus anyway – over his strenuous objections. On the road they meet Johnny (Justin Timberlake), a once hotshot pitching prospect signed by who blew out his arm and never had much of a playing career. And wouldn’t you know it – he’s now a scout for the Red Sox – also looking at Gentry.
You know where all this is going, don’t you? Eastwood has to do very little except be his old, gruff, no nonsense self for an audience to like him. He can do that in his sleep, but he doesn’t here. Yes, he is playing off his iconic image here – not as much as in Gran Torino, but still an awful lot. But you cannot help but like the guy, even if you, like Mickey, wonder about his actions in the past. And Adams, such a wonderful actress who is able to add intelligence and fun to every role she takes on. In short, in a role like this, she is a joy to watch. And Timberlake continues his strong of solid performances.
Yes, Trouble with the Curve is about as clichéd as it comes. And it romanticizes a past in baseball that is long gone. Directed by Robert Lorenz, a longtime AD for Eastwood making his debut, the movie even has its share of clunky moments. I’m sure the cynics out there will hate it. But Trouble with the Curve is a fun, charming, sweet little movie.