Review: TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

Transparent predictability plagues Clint Eastwood’s latest acting gig as an aged baseball scout facing inevitable retirement.  Seriously, though, as the first act of this film sets up the characters and relationships, it shouldn’t really take long to figure out where it’s headed.  For me, that really takes most of the punch out of the experience. As I glance at my possibly temporary rating of 3 stars above this paragraph in progress, I start to question the generosity of this rating.  This will be another one of those reviews where I will have to wait until the end of my review to make my final decision. So, in the meantime let’s carefully take stock of the good, the bad, and the in between. 

On the positive end of the spectrum, Trouble with the Curve has fantastic performances.  Clint Eastwood, famously known for his tough, hard-as-nails characters has truly embraced his age and shows genuine vulnerability under a tough façade. As Gus, audiences will get to follow him as he grasps onto his true love for dear life, while still trying to maintain a cool demeanor and brave face.  Gus’ love is with baseball and his job of scouting talent.  While several things have changed with the game, Gus stubbornly sticks with what he knows and refuses to change, much to the chagrin of his superiors and to the delight of hungry and overzealous young scout Philip Sanderson (Matthew Lillard) who hopes to discredit Gus and take over his job.  The trouble with Gus, however, is that his health is failing him and, thus, affecting his abilities.

His colleague and good friend Pete Klein (John Goodman) contacts Gus’ estranged daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) and begs her to help Gus on what will probably his last scouting assignment. During a tense and awkward trip, Gus and Mickey are forced to face their relationship troubles and the realities of their lives and careers.  Mickey also meets and connects with a former ball player turned talent scout (Justin Timberlake) who has much to learn about the job of scouting and looks to Gus as a mentor.

Along with Eastwood, the rest of the cast delivers top notch performances.  Amy Adams really shines here as Mickey, a tough and strong willed attorney. Adams is usually known for her awkward and neurotic characters, but pulls off this role exceptionally.  Anyone concerned with Adams taking on the iconic role of tough and quick witted reporter Lois Lane in the upcoming Man of Steel will breathe a sigh of relief after watching her performance here.  Justin Timberlake also makes a fine addition to the cast as the charming and witty love interest to Adams.

My trouble with this film really lies in the writing.  As I stated above the plot is so easily determined as the story and characters are established.  I was not too impressed with the script by writer Randy Brown.  Granted, this is his first major feature film and his story does have its poignant and touching moments.  I will give him some kudos for one particular scene revealing the source of the estrangement between father and daughter.  This particular moment did catch me off guard and was unexpected.  The potential for superb writing is there.  Brown should continue working to polish his craft.  Director Robert Lorenz makes his directorial debut with this film and does so quite well.  Lorenz, who has worked with Eastwood as a second unit director or assistant director on Eastwood’s films obviously has learned much from a master filmmaker and story teller.  I look forward to seeing more films by this talent.

As any reader can already tell, I have decided to stick with my 3 star rating.  I feel that the acting, directing, and one particularly magical moment in the film earns it.  However, I would not recommend spending top dollar to see it at the cinema.  This movie would make for a nice afternoon at the theater, but at today’s ticket prices I wouldn’t have been too thrilled about spending the money for a full priced ticket.  I love exceptional acting, but predictability really irks me.

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