Trouble With the Curve

Sep 21, 2012

Crusty Clint

Trouble With the Curve
Grade: C
Director: Robert Lorenz
Screenplay: Randy Brown
Cast: Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino), Amy Adams (The Master)
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 111 min.
by John DeSando

“No game in the world is as tidy and dramatically neat as baseball, with cause and effect, crime and punishment, motive and result, so cleanly defined.” Paul Gallico

The Trouble with the Curve is that there is no “curve ball” in the script, which seems almost computerized from the baseball-cliché app. However, for those who couldn’t get enough of crusty Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino, he’s back for more curmudgeon as Gus, an aging scout for the Atlanta Braves who eschews sabermetrics and all such scientific analysis in favor of old fashioned gut work, especially hearing the sound of a ball hitting a glove and a ball hitting a bat. First-time director Robert Lorenz, a producer for many Eastwood films, makes sure the heroic Eastwood hero follows the formulaic plays so long a part of the Eastwood game.

Difficult Gus doesn’t much abide his accomplished daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), whose bid for partnership in her law office is a sign that he may have done something right, not that he would ever talk to her of his feelings about anything. She accompanies him scouting out a potential star in North Carolina as she sees how his eyesight has deteriorated and could need help.

But Gus, in vintage Eastwood style, accepts no help, and so the story slips into formula with Mickey romancing a former star, Johnny (Justin Timberlake); a young Braves scout, Philip (Matthew Lillard), getting his comeuppance, and the world improbably going everyone’s way at the most contrived, vapid, and neatly tied together conclusion in baseball film history. In other words original material is absent, Moneyball looks like Citizen Kane next to this froth, and both films share a similar combat between the old scouts and the upstarts with their computers. In Moneyball the metrics win out; in Trouble the gut does its job. 

But then, in most Eastwood movies, with him as director or just actor, the bullies are humiliated and the old guys win the match. The young women, e.g., in Million Dollar Baby and Trouble, gritty though they are, learn and win largely because they’re Clint’s protégés.

Baseball is never like that except in the movies.