Anybody who gives any shit to Trouble With The Curve (Warner Bros., 9.21) is a sourpuss who needs to hit the showers. This is not a great Eastwood film, but it’s an entirely decent second-tier thing that completely pays off during the last 15 minutes. Who else is making old-fashioned, tripod-mounted, one-scene-follows-another movies with plain-spoken characters that are actually about stuff that counts? This film is a classic 1957 Chevy with a well-tuned engine and brand-new radials and no GPS and an AM radio with no auxiliary plug-in — take it or leave it.
If the name “Sandy Koufax” doesn’t mean anything to you, you’re going to have trouble with Trouble With The Curve, okay? Just being straight with you.
You can’t put down Eastwood movies (even if this one has been directed, very smoothly and confidently and almost certainly with Clint overseeing, by Robert Lorenz) for their relaxed Eastwoodish pacing and right-over-the-plate writing and their emphasis on values. That’s what they do, man. It’s a brand, a consistency.
Trouble With The Curve is a baseball movie that totally sides with the savvy scouts and their gut instincts and derides the computer stats analysts — it’s anti-Moneyball in spades. And it’s a fairy tale, of course — I didn’t believe any of it in a real-world sense except for the parts that show Clint’s character getting stiffer and crankier and a little less able to fend for himself, but I went with it because it’s Clint’s World and because the ending works with a great final line. As I was walking out I was even starting to forgive Clint for being a Romney supporter. Well, not really “forgive” — I was trying to figure out ways to overlook it.
Clint gets to do his snarly older-guy thing as Atlanta Braves baseball scout Gus Lobel. Gus is starting to be regarded by the front-office guys as too old and bent-over for the game (i.e., refuses to work with a computer) . Plus he needs to forget about driving because his eyes are failing. Pete (John Goodman) does what he can to protect Gus from soulless GenX operator Tom Silver (Mathew Lillard) but Gus’s forthcoming trip to scout hitters and pitchers in North Carolina is basically “move it or lose it.” Pete persuades Gus’s attorney daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) to tag along to make sure he’s okay. In N.C. they hook up with Johnny (Justin Timberlake), a former pitcher whom Gus supported and encouraged and now a scout for another team. And yaddah yaddah.
I have to admit I was a little concerned for the first two thirds or so. Trouble ambles along in a relaxed and steady fashion but it’s almost entirely about character and old age closing in and Gus’s relationship with Mickey and Mickey’s gradual romantic thing with Johnny. All well and good, I was telling myself, but where’s the actual story? Nothing’s really happening. And then something happens at the end and it all kicks into place.
In Contention‘s Kris Tapley was right the other day when he said this is Amy Adams’ film. It is. Her Mickey performance is straight and settled down, never actor-ish, in the zone and just right. Between this and her Master performance she has to be the front-runner for Best Supporting Actress.
“Trouble With the Curve is either an off-speed pitch that just catches the edge of the strike zone or a bloop single lofted into right field. The runner is safe. The movie is too. Crack open a peanut and flag down the beer guy.” — from A.O. Scott‘s 9.20 N.Y. Times review.