Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood brings his “A” game to Trouble with the Curve
, directed by Robert Lorenz. As Gus, a veteran baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves who’s losing his vision, Eastwood is alternately acerbic and grumpy, or vulnerable and emotionally wounded. He brings subtlety to a role that could have easily become a caricature. Amy Adams costars as Mickey, his long-suffering, over-achieving, attorney daughter, and together they create a poignant portrait of two people, more alike than different, who bring new meaning to the phrase “failure to communicate.”
Besides his struggle with old age and blindness, Gus also faces opposition from younger scouts who rely on computer-generated stats to identify top picks. It’s a little bit of a cliché – the computer vs. gut feeling conflict – but Matthew Lillard’s smarmy, smug character, Phillip, the heir apparent in the Brave’s scouting hierarchy, makes the fight interesting. You know the contest will come out in Gus’s favor somehow – you just don’t know how, and I’ll not be revealing that info here! Besides, Eastwood’s Gus is worth the price of the ticket.
John Goodman makes the most of his screen time as Pete Klein, Gus’s boss and friend. He’s the one who contacts Mickey to try to enlist her help with her obviously agitated father. Father and daughter rarely communicate, so she’s very reluctant at first. When Mickey was 6, her mother died, and her father, not knowing what to do with her at the time, sent her to live with an aunt and uncle. Mickey struggles with abandonment issues and confesses to Gus that she’s been in therapy since college to try to figure out his rejection. Any mention of this makes Gus very uncomfortable, and he changes the subject or leaves. Hence, no progress has ever been made. Despite her misgivings, though, Mickey takes off to see what’s going on with Gus as he scouts an obnoxious local power-hitter in North Carolina. Joe Massingill does a fine job of making you hate him as Bo Gentry, the highly-courted hitter.
You can’t have a good-looking, lonely woman in a film like this one without a love interest. Unfortunately, Justin Timberlake is horribly miscast as Johnny, a former pick of Gus’s who threw out his arm playing for the Red Sox and now is trying his hand at scouting. He’s really trying to land a broadcasting job. When he sees Mickey, he’s more than interested, and in the hands of a better actor, we might have felt some chemistry between the two. As it is, Timberlake’s limited range as an actor makes it sound like he’s reading a teleprompter instead of portraying a character. It’s a mistake to put him in a film with two scenery-chewers like Eastwood and Adams. Mickey and Johnny’s attraction isn’t believable for a minute.
In the end, the outcome becomes predictable for the most part, but it’s still an enjoyable film. Eastwood does well portraying the father of daughters, which is a good thing since he has a passel of them (4) in real life. He does the gruff/stubborn thing well, but he also excels when he’s called on to do the emotionally-tender or, in some cases, distressed thing. This film is a great date movie and has plenty of baseball trivia and stats for hard-core fans.