Movie Review – Trouble with the Curve (2012)

Trouble with the Curve, 2012.

Directed by Robert Lorenz.
Starring Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Matthew Lillard and Scott Eastwood.

SYNOPSIS:

An ailing baseball scout in his twilight years has one last chance to prove himself when he takes his daughter along on trip to scout a hot new prospect. 

In the on-going guessing-game of the Academy Awards, it can often be entertaining to look at the trajectory of actors who clearly aim to achieve a statuette. Trouble with the Curve clearly gained its finance on the basis that it would become an Oscar-nominee. Oscar-favourite Clint Eastwood leading the film alongside Oscar nominee Amy Adams (who has a huge shot of winning one after her role in The Master), and supporting actors from The Artist, The Descendants and The Social Network in John Goodman, Matthew Lillard and Justin Timberlake respectively. Trouble with the Curve should be (and will be) sold as a heart-warming, sport-centric story in the vein of Moneyball and The Blind Side (just compare posters). This should be the film that sits awkwardly amongst the ten Best Picture nominees. It would never win, of course, but enough people will watch it on the basis of the nomination alone to justify the cost. It would then become the core film in a book titled “D.I.Y Oscar Contender”…

Unfortunately, Trouble with the Curve will not even get a look-in at the Academy Awards. This is a confused film that doesn’t seem to truly grasp what is central to the story. It jumps between attempting to prioritise Eastwood’s aging baseball scout as the central narrative, before moving towards Amy Adams’ ‘Mickey’ and her romance with Justin Timberlake. Amongst the character stories we are also teased a story regarding an arrogant, sexist teenager shortly before he joins the big leagues, whilst Eastwood’s boss is conflicted about an 80-year-old scout choosing the most important player of the season, especially when computer programs can use statistics to generate details that invalidate the purpose of scouting completely.

Trouble with the Curve seems to be under the impression that you have never seen a film before – and basic knowledge of pacing and set-ups ruin any tension the film attempts to create. Amy Adams and Clint Eastwood arrive at a motel and, fleetingly, two young boys run past to play baseball – only to be told by their mother, the motel owner, that they need to complete some chores before they can play. It is clear that this is vital to the story and, despite the boys not appearing in the film during the following hour, you know they will return. And they do. And they save the day.

The same frustration sinks in as it draws to a close and Amy Adams, a lawyer who throughout the film is attached to her mobile phone, stands by a large bin when leaving a baseball stadium. Eastwood re-informs her (as he has throughout the film) about her constant use of a mobile phone… and guess what happens…

The script jarringly attempts to make profound statements about the importance of wisdom and age – as Eastwood can pick up certain ‘skills’ of players simply by the sound of the baseball hitting the bat. But this is in contrast to his age becoming a serious cause for concern. Eastwood is losing his sight and we see awkward moments as he trips over tables, chairs and steps. I can imagine a group of teenagers will simply see this old man, stumbling around on screen, as laughable – and as comedic as Clint Eastwood stumbling on stage, in ‘support’ of Mitt Romney at the Republican convention.

Throw into the mix cliché dscenes of a rousing “you’re fired!” moment at the end of the film and a romance whereby Justin Timberlake, despite his obvious, immature flirtations still manages to control the dominant Amy Adams and you have a film that doesn’t challenge, inform or engage you. There is a clear right-wing agenda whereby old-age and wisdom are valued higher than innovation and technological-prowess. Amy Adams, an independent woman who carved out an incredibly successful career at a lawyers firm is “better off” working in baseball, subservient to the “real men” who own the team – and, obviously, she needs sporty-snake Justin Timberlake to come home to.

And Eastwood? Despite his stuffy attitude to being comfortable (“Being comfortable is overrated!”) he manages, for no clear reason to accept his fate and take a back-seat as his daughter begins to work in the same profession as he did. A hint of nepotism ensures that Eastwood can rest in peace and, inexplicably, we assume this resolves his story (I’d be very interested to see how he actually adapts to this…). Interestingly, this is the directorial debut of Robert Lorenz – a producer and second-unit director for many Clint Eastwood films. In the same way Amy Adams managed to swoop into the baseball-scouting profession with ease through her Father’s links, I have a feeling Lorenz would’ve had a hard-time finding the support without his own Eastwood connections. Because, like hitting a home-run, this film will disappear into the distance – and it will rest amongst the forgettable made-for-TV and ‘true story’ films that litter the path of an actor’s career.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★  / Movie: ★ ★

Simon Columb