Trouble with the Curve (2012)

This is a film that I had anticipated for a month or two before its release, but, for some reason or other, I never saw it in theaters. I’d never seen a Clint Eastwood film before (unless you count the brief snippet of Fistful of Dollars that appears in Back to the Future Part II!), and the only film I’d seen Justin Timberlake in was The Social Network, so it was interesting for me to get familiar with a couple of unknown (to me) actors. However, the ending result was disappointing.

Clint Eastwood plays Gus Lobel, an old baseball scout who dislikes change and is beginning to have trouble with his eyes, which is a problem when he is asked to scout a potential new player in North Carolina. His daughter, Mickey Lobel, played by Amy Adams, is a successful lawyer who accompanies her father on this scouting job, hoping to help him keep his job and to possibly mend a rough relationship between the two of them. Along the way, they run into Johnny Flanagan, played by Justin Timberlake, an ex-pitcher who was once scouted by Gus himself, who is now scouting for a rival team and takes an interest in Mickey.

Trouble with the Curve struggles with getting the audience to connect with its characters. When Mickey tries to talk with Gus about their rocky past, it’s sudden and almost out of place; there is nothing to make me sympathize with her or to make me angry at Gus for pushing her aside when she was a little girl. Despite Amy Adams’ best efforts, I feel no connection with her character, though she’s certainly a talented actress. I think most of the issue is to blame on the script and her opposing male leads: Clint Eastwood may have once been a great actor, but that appears to have left him with age. His character is flat and uninteresting, and the lack of inflection or variation in his role is upsetting. At least he can blame old age, though…Justin Timberlake’s character is just as bland as Eastwood’s in spite of the fact that Timberlake is certainly likable (I thought he was fantastic in The Social Network), and he has an unusual talent of showing up wherever Gus and Mickey tend to be. In addition to these acting issues, I take issue with the script and the title: the story is convoluted, the relationship between Gus and Mickey just doesn’t work very well in the context of the job at hand, and I have no idea how the title is supposed to connect to their relationship. There is an obvious connection between the title and an event that takes place in the last bit of the film, but I just don’t “get” what relevance a curve or curve ball has to the Gus/Mickey father/daughter relationship as presented in the film.

I didn’t dislike everything about this film, though. As I said before, Amy Adams is certainly a talented actress, and she manages to shine through the film’s issues at least a little bit. There were also several instances of humor that didn’t feel out of place or overcooked, which helped to balance out some of Eastwood’s aged performance – with a performer like Eastwood, filmmakers are able to give him a good one-liner that just puts everything at ease for a moment while you laugh.

This was a film that I desperately wanted to love. I really enjoy Amy Adams and I really enjoy baseball, so I thought that a combination of the two would work really well, and, while it didn’t completely fail, it was still lacking in many ways…it fell short of what it could have been, and most of that could be blamed on the script rather than on the actors. Eastwood is old, and, as much as we want such a well-known actor to keep going strong, I think it’s just about time for him to throw in the towel. I enjoyed Trouble with the Curve overall, but its failures can’t be overlooked.

-Chad

Rating: 2 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for language, sexual references, some thematic material and smoking

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