Saturday, October 06, 2012

Trouble with the Curve

There isn't a moment in Trouble with the Curve, directed by Robert Lorenz, where you can guess what's coming and be wrong. That doesn't mean that the movie doesn't have its low-key charms or that it isn't a small pleasure, but the pleasure of Trouble with the Curve comes from confidence in knowing that the film is headed in the direction we would all like it to go. Gus (Clint Eastwood) is a scout for the Atlanta Braves with a decades-long resume of signing great players. As the Braves prepare for a draft and the possible selection of a young slugger named Gentry (Joe Massingill), Gus learns the vision problems that have been slowing him down are actually the first signs of serious eye trouble. Enter Mickey (Amy Adams), the estranged daughter of Gus and now a workaholic attorney. Mickey is of course a scouting savant, and she joins her father on the road to help him work, get some emotional closure, and maybe save her dad's job. The emotional arc of Trouble with the Curve builds to the scene where Gus reveals why he sent Amy away to relatives and boarding schools after her mother died, and it's a scene where Eastwood (who is helped enormously here by having Adams to play against) makes something moving out of his natural economic acting style. Amy Adams is the central reason to see Trouble with the Curve, she makes Mickey's anger at her father legitimate and gives her a growing sense of confusion at what she wants out of life as a partnership at her firm falls into jeopardy. A budding romance with a fellow scout (Justin Timberlake, not really believable as a former hot prospect) is used mostly as filler, but it does give the usually serious Adams a chance to flash her too little seen smile on screen.

Trouble with the Curve is as conservative in its view of baseball as it is in its storytelling. Think of this movie as the anti-Moneyball. Gus has a young rival (Matthew Lillard) whose player evaluations are statistics-based and who doesn't seem to get out of the office much. The art of scouting isn't explained much; there's a lot of talk of listening and the difficulties of hitting off-speed stuff. I much preferred Eastwood here to his work in Gran Torino; there's some vulnerability built into the role that he meets head-on, though he hasn't gotten much more expressive since the last time you saw him. Trouble with the Curve is satisfying (if too familiar) in almost all respects, a tale of reconnection in the autumn of a life spent watching young men play in the spring.

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