Trouble With The Curve an easy trot around the bases for Clint
Trouble With the Curve
Two and a half stars (out of four)
If I might misquote Robert Preston for a moment, it must be said that Trouble with the Curve starts with “T” and that rhymes with “C” and that stands for Clint — and also confusion.
Variously playing like a bizarre tangent to Gran Torino, or the flipside to Moneyball, or maybe just the eccentric output of a guy who talks to chairs at Republican shindigs, it really doesn’t know what story it and rookie screenwriter Randy Brown want to tell.
Yet Trouble With the Curve is also agreeable entertainment, in spite of everything. That’s obviously all that Eastwood cares about, in this directing debut by Robert Lorenz, his loyal assistant director.
For his first film in nearly 20 years that he’s acted in without also directing (you have to go back to In the Line of Fire in 1993), the 82-year-old Eastwood seems content to play an even more irascible version of his grumpy Walt Kowalski from Gran Torino.
Instead of “Get off my lawn!” it’s more like, “Get off my baseball diamond!” His Gus Lobel is one of those old-time talent scouts who Moneyball mocked, the kind of guy who goes by his gut rather than by computer, a device he despises.
He eats Spam out of a can for breakfast and cusses at his wonky prostate during morning toilet rituals: “I outlived you, you little bastard!”
Gus doesn’t get much love from the computer-savvy officials of the Atlanta Braves (Matthew Lillard leads the hiss-worthy villains), who figure it’s time for him to retire, despite his many years of stellar talent spotting.
You can hardly blame them: As much as Gus tries to hide it, macular degeneration has rendered him almost blind. Not only can he barely see a baseball, he can’t even walk through his own home without turning furniture into splinters, much to the chagrin of his buddy Pete (John Goodman).
Just as you think Trouble is going to be about a guy literally raging against the dying of the light, the story shifts emphasis to his daughter Mickey (Amy Adams). Mickey is an up-and-coming Atlanta lawyer seeking a partnership at her male-dominated firm, and she’s long dealt with demanding men. She used to travel with her father on the scouting circuit, and as fate would have it, her presence is required again, much to her chagrin.
How this squares with the delinquent daddy subplot that suddenly erupts is hard to fathom — how could Mickey be always at her father’s side, yet somehow be abandoned by him?
Also shoehorned in is a romantic subplot with Justin Timberlake’s Johnny, a former pitcher in “the show” who now scouts for the Boston Red Sox. He owes allegiance to Gus but has an eye for Mickey, who naturally won’t warm up to him until the required level of banter has been reached.
If all this isn’t enough, the late innings of Trouble With the Curve bring us an arrogant baseball player who is too big for his britches and a humble one who just wants to hurl the ball, gosh-darn-it.
Eastwood is enjoyable and Timberlake is charming, but the film’s real MVP is Adams. To her credit, she acts as if she’s making a movie as important as Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, also out last weekend, which is a better showcase for her talents.
Trouble with the Curve is one of those easy-going old-time movies that they say studios don’t make anymore. They still do on occasion, but you need a guy like Clint Eastwood to pull them off.
Peter Howell is a syndicated Toronto Star movie critic.