What do baseball and Clint Eastwood have in common?
They’re both slow.
Even so, at 83, Eastwood can still carry a movie, although in TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE (2012), now available on Blu-ray, he doesn’t have to, as he receives fine support from co-star Amy Adams who delivers a sensational performance.
In TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE (2012), Gus Lobel (Clint Eastwood) is an aging baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves. While his immediate supervisor Pete (John Goodman) has his back, fellow scout Philip (Matthew Lillard) has the ear of the Braves’ general manager, Vince (Robert Patrick). Philip seems to believe that Gus is too old to do his job well anymore, and he’s pushing for Vince not to renew the octogenarian’s contract. But Pete goes to bat for his buddy and arranges for Gus to scout the Braves’ top prospect, a slugger named Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill).
However, when Pete discovers that Gus is losing his eyesight, he asks Gus’ adult daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) to check in on him. Spending time with her father is the last thing Mickey wants to do. She has spent her life trying to get to know him without success. Plus, she’s a successful lawyer about to become partner at her firm, so she really can’t take the time off, but Pete tells her that Gus is in danger of losing his job.
Against her better judgment, and against her dad’s wishes, Mickey decides to put her life on hold and join her father as he scouts the Braves’ top hitting prospect. While there, she meets Johnny Flanagan (Justin Timberlake), a former pitcher who Gus had scouted years before. Johnny now works for the Red Sox and is there scouting Bo Gentry as well.
While Mickey and Johnny develop feelings for each other, Gus advises the Braves to pass on slugger Bo because he can’t hit a curve ball, but Philip feels otherwise and tells his general manager that he shouldn’t listen to an aging scout like Gus, and that if he passes on Bo, he’ll be passing on the future of the team.
And when Gus’ failing eyesight comes to light, it looks as if his career as a scout is done, but Mickey goes to bat for her father and comes up with a plan to save the day.
TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE is a very satisfying baseball movie, driven along by two excellent performances, by Clint Eastwood and by Amy Adams, and by an affable story that is perfect for a lazy summer day.
Clint Eastwood is perfect as Gus Lobel, a man who has spent his life around the game of baseball. He’s a crusty old-timer who’s losing his eyesight. He grumbles and swears when he trips over things, but when he burns his food he jokes about it. When he misjudges traffic and gets himself injured in a car accident, he shrugs it off. His life and his passion is baseball, and as long as he’s around the game, he’s content.
As good as Eastwood is, it’s Amy Adams who delivers the best performance in the movie as Mickey, Gus’ daughter. When we first see her, she’s a powerhouse attorney, but when she joins her dad at the ball park, the truth about her character surfaces. Like her father, she lives and breathes baseball. She loves the sport, and she’s more knowledgeable about it than Gus. A running gag in the movie has Johnny constantly trying to stump her with baseball trivia, but she always knows the answers.
I liked Adams here even better than in her Oscar nominated role in THE FIGHTER (2010). She’s actually been nominated for an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role four times, but she has yet to win. She had me hooked in TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE. As Mickey she’s feisty, knowledgeable, passionate, and ultimately very likeable. I found her love of baseball infectious.
Justin Timberlake is likeable as Johnny, the young scout who has hopes of getting a job in the broadcast booth for the Boston Red Sox. He’s the kind of guy Gus easily sees as a good match for his daughter.
And in a more subtle performance than his recent over the top roles in ARGO (2012), FLIGHT (2012) and THE HANGOVER PART III (2013), John Goodman plays it straight here as Gus’ friend and supervisor Pete. Goodman’s Pete is a loyal buddy, a guy you’d definitely want watching your back.
The screenplay by Randy Brown tells a likeable story, and you’ll be pulling for Gus to be right about his instincts and keep his job. There is a dark revelation towards the end, explaining why Gus felt the need to send Mickey away when she was a child, and why he felt he was failing her as a parent, but this melancholy plot point is overshadowed by a happy ending which was far too syrupy sweet for my tastes. I didn’t find Mickey’s discovery at the end of the movie all that believable.
Director Robert Lorenz gives TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE a nice baseball feel, and he matches the deliberate pace of the movie with the sluggish pace of a baseball game. It’s not going to win any awards for the fastest paced movie of the year. Lorenz also captures what it feels like to be a baseball scout.
TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE is not the most exciting movie going, and its happy finale where all the loose ends come together gift wrapped in the final act is right out of a Frank Capra movie, and as such is a little too old-fashioned for my tastes.
Yet, like a baseball game in the middle of summer, it provides enough diversion to pass a sultry afternoon.
Pass the peanuts, please.
Books by Michael Arruda:
TIME FRAME, science fiction novel by Michael Arruda.
IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, movie review collection by Michael Arruda.
FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, short story collection by Michael Arruda.