17th May2013

‘Trouble With the Curve’ Review

by Dan Clark

Stars: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, John Goodman, Justin Timberlake, Matthew Lillard, Robert Patrick, Ed Lauter | Written by Randy Brown | Directed by Robert Lorenz

clint-eastwood-trouble-with-the-curve

We all enjoy the opportunity to be comfortable. It brings a warm sensation as we relax from our busy day to feel at ease for a brief moment.  Sometimes movies are capable of providing us that brief moment of escape. They present a certain story or plotline that isn’t challenging and easy to follow. You aren’t required to think yet you still remain entertained. It’s as relaxing as a Saturday afternoon nap where we recharge our batteries before returning to the cruel cynical world. When watching director’s Robert Lorenz’s film Trouble with the Curve I was placed in the ultimate state of comfort. The story is formulaic and never deviates from the obvious path it gives itself. You can easily put the pieces together far earlier then the movies does, but there is some enjoyment to be found in the lead performances. Clint Eastwood and Amy Adams elevate the material that they are given to make Trouble with the Curve the perfect Saturday afternoon movie.

In the film Clint Eastwood plays Gus a baseball scout who has firmly entered the twilight of his career. His health is diminishing and many wonder if he is still able to do the job.  There are few people who can play the old curmudgeon like Clint Eastwood.  This is his first on screen performance since Gran Torino and he has reserved himself to these roles of the stubborn old man with an attitude. They do overplay it at times, but it’s still fun to watch him as the cranky man who simply hates everything around him. Part of what stops Eastwood’s performance from feeling redundant is his relationship with Amy Adams, who plays Gus’s estranged daughter Mickey. Gus was a single parent who never quite understood how to raise his daughter. The relationship between Gus and Mickey has always been similar to trying to put a square peg in a round hole. Though Mickey grew up around baseball she has left that life to pursue a law career.  Due to unforeseen events she is forced to break from that life to return to the life she once knew. Neither is thrilled about the idea of sharing life on the road again. Both are unable or unwilling to accept the other and clash stubborn heads countless times. Their story does read like a Lifetime movie, and this could have been a melodramatic mess.

What stop that from happening were the performances of Eastwood and Adams. They continuously pulled the material along as it weighed them down with a number of uninspired ideas and an endless amount of movie clichés. Adams has the ability to morph herself moment to moment with ease. She knew when to play the brash tough girl and when her performance required a lighter touch. You wouldn’t think she would be able to go toe to toe with Eastwood in an argument, but she has no trouble. There were times when you saw the bickering stop and an actual father daughter relationship begin. This was important not only to give us a break from the arguing, but to also to provide us some reasoning to route for them to finally connect.   Watching this relationship develop was unquestionably the best part of the film.

That’s not to say there aren’t any other highlights. Justin Timberlake brings in some much needed life as a burned out baseball player turned scout. The only issue was his character never found a proper place amongst the story, and was often forced into the plot to play go between with two leads. If you are a baseball fan you’ll certainly appreciate its approach to the sport as the anti Moneyball movie. Their focus is on the importance of the personal touch, and how the computer can’t tell you everything. I was unaware of what life is like for a baseball scout, and wished this went more in-depth. Instead it was more compelled to tell us how important scouts are rather than show us. That importance was laid on a little too tick and became ridiculous on occasion. Part of that was due to the performance of Matthew Lillard, who played the scout that represented to new guard. His performance was silly to say the least and at moments hard to watch. The script didn’t do him any favors with lines that read like they were from the most outlandish of campaign commercials. A lot of this film was very cartoony with characters that were paper thin. It would attempt to create conflict in the easiest ways possible by developing these pointless villains. For example you had a blue chip high school prospect whose arrogance was only superseded by his racist tendencies. Gus was following his career to see if he should be the Atlanta Braves number one pick, and the script felt compelled to make that answer as obvious as possible. The worst part was making this horrible character wasn’t necessary and never had a real payoff. For some reason the film felt obligated to fill the screen with a number of poorly written superfluous characters. It was only a few steps away from someone walking on screen and pointing at a person and telling the audience verbatim, “This person is bad and you shouldn’t like them”. Perhaps there is some gratification in watching someone come to their unavoidable demise, but in the end it did nothing to move the story forward.

When it got back to the relationship between the main characters it found its stride. When it deviated you were left with less than stellar material. Trouble with the Curve is a flawed movie for sure that could have been better with a proper script and more capable director.  Trouble with the Curve will certainly have a broad appeal as it casts a wide net when pandering to the audience. It knew how to play the game to have just the right amount of humor to balance out the drama. The highs aren’t too high and the lows aren’t too low.  In the end you are left with a movie that hits it right up the middle.

Trouble with the Curve is released on DVD  and Blu-ray on May 20th.

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