Trouble with the Curve (review)

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Trouble with the Curve yellow light John Goodman Amy Adams Clint Eastwood

I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Poor Clint Eastwood! He’s a Gran Torino old coot in a Moneyball world. You can tell his Atlanta Braves baseball scout is a coot because he talks to his prostate and mispronounces “feng shui” (with derision) and is called Gus, which is an old-coot name. You can tell it’s a Moneyball world because his fortysomething whippersnapper competition (Matthew Lillard: The Descendants, Without a Paddle) is a cartoonish asshole who uses the “Interweb” to find new players, which is Bad. (It takes a lot for a movie to make me feel sorry for Matthew Lillard, but this one gets there.)

Ah, I love the smell of generational conflict in the morning! Gus has one last chance to prove himself before the team puts him out to pasture, which is gonna be tough, because he’s losing his eyesight, and how can you scout a ball player if you can’t see what he can do? But wait! Gus has magical old-coot skills that will compensate, which I will not spoil for you because even old coots deserve to have their stories told and their abilities respected. I wish the film respected Gus and his hard-earned, long-proven talents as much as I did, and didn’t feel the need to tip the scales in Gus’s favor with melodramatic clichés, like with hotshot high-school player Bo (Joe Massingill), the target of the scouting, who’s such a cartoonish jerk that his “hilarious” and “ironic” comeuppance is inevitable and the shape of it obvious almost literally from the moment we meet him.

Trouble with the Curve is more problem than not: it fails to adequately apply baseball metaphors to life (when all baseball movies are required by law to be about Life, the Universe, and Everything), for one other huge issue. It wastes the awesomeness that is John Goodman — see: Argo and Flight — as Gus’s champion in the Braves office, for another. This is the feature debut from Robert Lorenz, who’s been an assistant director and producer on other Eastwood flicks (including J. Edgar and Hereafter), and it smacks of a bone thrown to him: it’s not poorly directed but it’s pedestrian at best, and it’s not helped by the script, by first-timer Randy Brown, which plays like a first draft. And no, I don’t mean that as a baseball metaphor.

Still… I’m giving it the slightest, most grudging pass because Amy Adams (On the Road, Leap Year). Just Amy Adams, whom if you didn’t already acknowledge as just about the most perfect thing ever on film before this, you will now. She eases her way through this flick with more warmth and grace and charm than it deserves, and so she makes it just barely worth your time. Oh no, the movie is not fair to her character, either. Her Mickey is Gus’s estranged daughter, and she risks her high-powered, about-to-become-a-partner attorney job — which she clearly loves and is amazing at until the movie no longer requires her to love it and be amazing at it — in order to accompany Gus on this all-important scouting trip. (Also worth your time: Justin Timberlake [In Time, Bad Teacher) as a scout for another team whom Adams gets to flirt with. They’re cute together without being obnoxious about it.) When it all comes down to the wire for Gus, Mickey will sneakily steal his thunder. I don’t think the filmmakers intended that, and good on Adams for making it happen.

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