10 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Eastwood gets a double, Timberlake walks, but Amy Adams knocks it out of the park in otherwise formula film,
This review is from: Trouble with the Curve (DVD)
Trouble With The Curve is a watchable film about an aging baseball scout facing problems with a changing game, fading eyesight and a difficult relationship with his daughter that he's running out of time to fix. In a lot of ways, it could have been the perfect counter-point to last year's excellent film Moneyball, showing the view of the veteran scouts and their traditional ways of looking for talent in contrast to the analytics-driven approach which now dominates the game. But in the hands of first-time director Robert Lorenz and first-time screen-writer Randy Brown, Trouble With The Curve never ventures beyond formula and manages to run for 111 mostly by-the-numbers minutes without a single moment of unpredictability.
Gus Lobel (Clint Eastwood) is a man caught between the rocks of old age and failing eyesight and the hard place of trying to hang on to his job as a baseball scout as the whole nature of the business is changing around him, going from a hands-on gut feel approach to boiling down potential players into a set of stats on a laptop. His contract with the Atlanta Braves baseball team is coming up for renewal, but his bosses, team owner Vince (Robert Patrick) and manager Pete Klein (John Goodman) aren't sure if Gus is up to the job anymore. Especially with their up-and-coming scout Phil Sanderson (Matthew Lillard, oozing sleaze) telling them that Gus' way of doing things just doesn't cut it anymore.
Ultimately, everything depends on a scouting mission Gus is set to handle: to check out a player named Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill, oozing obnoxiousness), a hard-hitter on a small Georgia college team who's viewed as a potential top pick in the upcoming draft. Klein, who's a long-time friend of Gus's as well as his boss, gets in touch with Gus's daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams, shining brilliantly) a successful attorney on the brink of being made a partner at the law firm where she works. Klein tells Mickey his concerns and what's at stake for Gus if he blows this mission, asking her to go with Gus and keep an eye on things. Unwilling at first, particularly as her being made a partner depends on a big presentation she's to give for a major client in a matter of days, Mickey reluctantly gives in when she finds out about Gus's eye problems, telling her bosses that she has to take a couple of days off to deal with her father but that she _will_ be there to handle the presentation on time. While Mickey and Gus aren't exactly estranged, there is nonetheless a distance between them that neither seems able to overcome, making their relationship difficult at best and more often one of walking away with hands thrown up in frustration. Their only common ground, rather naturally given the film, is their love of baseball.
While scouting out the intended prospect, Gus and Mickey run into Johnny (Justin Timberlake), a former pitcher first recruited by Gus who is now a scout for the Boston Red Sox, having been forced to find an alternate career after his arm gave out too soon. Johnny rounds out the odd trio, Johnny in his relationship to Gus as a former recruit and now rival scout, Gus with his awkward and ever frictional relationship with Mickey, and now Mickey who finds herself being drawn out in spite of herself by Johnny's almost clownish come-on's. And of course all three of them with their relationship with baseball, the one thing where they all find their moments of grace.
It has to be said that if Trouble With The Curve works at all, it is in no small part because of Amy Adams' performance. In spite of Lorenz' mechanical direction and Brown's pedestrian script, Adams manages to make Mickey shine nonetheless, engaging you in ways that make you buy into her character even when you'd otherwise see no reason to. Some of her best moments are those in which she has no dialogue and it's just the expression on her face conveying what Mickey is feeling that make the connection. Her scenes with Eastwood and with Timberlake work because she makes them work, bringing a chemistry to the situations that keeps you watching and makes you care. Eastwood's Gus is adequate to the role, but only just, with Eastwood basically just playing the same role he's been playing for the last twenty years, largely glaring and growling his way through things, mostly relying in this case on the fact that at 82 he actually _is_ old instead of having to act old. In the hands of a better director, Eastwood would almost certainly have given a better performance, but one of the problems with Trouble With The Curve is that Lorenz doesn't seem to know how to draw the best out of his actors or the situations they're in. Timberlake is not only largely wasted but in retrospect grossly miscast: he would have been far more effective as Gus's in-house nemesis Sanderson. As Johnny, he really doesn't have much credibility or even reason to be there as you could pretty much cut all of his scenes and it wouldn't affect the main plot in the slightest. But at the same time, his scenes with Adams do give her even more opportunities to shine. One of my favorite scenes is in a country bar where Mickey pulls a reluctant Johnny out onto the dance floor for a throw-him-in-the-water lesson in clog-dancing.
The other performances are a mixed bag, but two in particular stand out in ways that encapsulate the problems with the script and the direction. Matthew Lillard's Phil is almost a caricature of a sleazey underhanded in-house rival to Gus, so over-the-top that you know from the moment he first opens his mouth that you're supposed to hate him. I think this could be something of a career problem for Lillard as he's gone from always playing goofy comic sidekicks when he was younger to now playing complete sleazeballs in recent years, most recently in The Descendants. And Joe Massingill's Bo Gentry is so unbelievably obnoxious that it's a mystery why the rest of his team hasn't taken him out behind the stadium and beaten him to death with his own bat long before Gus and Mickey show up. If Trouble With The Curve had been an outright comedy, then both Lillard and Massingill's performances would've fit perfectly, but as it is, some subtlety was badly needed and unfortunately was completely lacking, the primary blame for which must be laid at the feet of Lorenz and Brown.
One wishes that Lorenz and Brown had been more daring or ambitious, given the talented actors they had to work with, but they weren't. You can tell early on that before Trouble With The Curve is over, all problems will be resolved in true Hollywood fashion, the characters you like will all triumph in the end and the characters you dislike will all get their deserved comeuppance. One also wishes that they'd gotten a more experienced director and writer to begin with as quite frankly Lorenz and Brown display a lack of talent in both the direction and the writing. The one element of mystery in the film - the reason why Gus and Mickey have such distance between them - when finally revealed feels completely artificial due in part to the clunky way in which the foreshadowing was handled and in part to the fact that, once revealed, it apparently makes no difference to either character as the movie just returns to its original track. The editing is often jumpy in places instead of smooth, and apparently Lorenz never wanted to do more than one take because you're constantly seeing all of the major actors' eyes looking to the sides, apparently to read cue cards to get through their lines. A regrettable waste of A-list actors in the C-list hands of a first-time director and a first-time writer.
On the plus side, the feel of the settings is well done, and you can believe that you're actually seeing Gus and Mickey doing a scouting mission in a small town where a local baseball star can be a big fish in a small pond. The music score by Marco Beltrami is also well done, setting the tone in the background without ever being intrusive so that you're barely aware that it's there, exactly the kind of score you need in a film like this.
Recommended for Amy Adams' brilliant performance and for anyone interested in a film about baseball recruiting and doesn't mind if the rest of the film is routine and completely predictable.
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Initial post: Dec 11, 2012 2:23:50 PM PST
While I appreciate the effort, reading the review should not take longer than viewing the movie....Thanks anyway.
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