Director: Robert Lorenz
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Robert Patrick, Matthew Lillard
Written by: Randy Brown
Running Time: 111 mins
Release date: 30th November 2012
Baseball movies just don’t sell in the UK. We don’t understand the game and so don’t understand the complexities of the terms used so often. They can also be incredibly cliched. Will the team win or lose? Will the top player hit out? Or will he flop? So Trouble With The Curve, which is being sold as a baseball film isn’t like other baseball films, because baseball is a sideline to a story about the relationship between a father and his daughter. This is what the film should be sold on because thanks to a spot-on pairing of legend Clint Eastwood and queen of the modern screen Amy Adams, this is a much more interesting film that it should have been.
Gus is an aging baseball scout whose eyesight is slowly deteriorating. What’s more, his job is on the line from an young upstart who hasn’t Gus’s experience or knowledge and who gets all his information from the internet. Gus is sent to North Carolina to check out a talented if arrogant batter that the Red Socks have their eye on. Gus’s friend and boss, Pete, worried about him, contacts Gus’s daughter, Mickey, to keep track on him.
Mickey has her own problems. A lawyer desperate for a partnership in the firm she works for, she was abandoned by Gus when a young girl and their relationship isn’t exactly perfect. Gus resents Mickey being with him but she has enough baseball knowledge to help. Throw into the mix Johnny, a former baseball pro who was scouted by Gus, now working for the Red Socks and after this new talent, who has enough respect for the older man and an eye on his daughter.
This is a gentle, slow-moving drama that does slightly suffer from being over-plotting. Too many subplots clashing into each other and director Robert Lorenz, making his debut in the main chair after years working as assistant director for many of Eastwood’s films, gives us a straight-forward, non-fussy film that relies mainly on the performances to move the story along. This is his trump card.
Using a collection of talented supporting actors (Robert Patrick, Matthew Lillard, Ed Lauder), it’s the leads that impress. John Goodman, as Gus’s friend Pete, is his usual reliable self. Fleshing out a character that others would regard as a cameo, Goodman is always good value and makes his mark in the smaller role. Justin Timberlake also manages to impress as Johnny and his relationship with Mickey is sweet and feels real. Timberlake is slowly proving himself in the acting world and this is a big step forward.
The main strength of the film, however, is Eastwood and Adams. Eastwood, who announced his retirement from acting after Gran Torino back in 2008. That was a short retirement but it was worth him coming back. Playing another grumpy old man, a role he has grown into, this time as Gus he does well showing a man who regrets his past, is still in mourning for his wife and who refuses to accept his ailing eyesight. Eastwood, at 82, still manages to command the screen with his presence.
The film, however, really belongs to Amy Adams. She manages to make acting seem effortless and creates beautifully detailed characters. Even if the role of Mickey is full of contrivances (would she really go off watching baseball games with a partnership on the line?), Adams is consistently watchable and along with Eastwood, bickering and all, they are a terrific screen partnership and you would believe that these two were warring father and daughter. Watching them is worth the admission ticket alone.
Sadly this won’t be a massive hit over here and will be swamped down by the other new releases and blockbusters that still frequent the local multiplexes but if you don’t mind the baseball sidelines, this is an easy going tale with great performances and two leads who you would be willing to spend a lot longer with and not mind one little bit.