I knew that I wanted to see Trouble with the Curve without knowing anything about the plot. The reason? Clint Eastwood and Amy Adams are so likable. Eastwood claimed that he would never act again after making Gran Torino, but I'm happy that he changed his mind. Eastwood plays baseball scout, Gus Lobel, and his character is similar to Walt from Gran Torino in many ways. He's hard to get along with, even if you happen to be one of his close friends.
One thing I should point out is that Trouble of the Curve is funny. Although it's tagged as a drama, there is a lot of humor in the movie. Eastwood has good comic timing and his character delivers one-liners at every opportunity. The audience in my theater laughed loudly and often. But the story also has the ability to move you emotionally. It feels somewhat like a James L. Brooks movie, such as Broadcast News or As Good as It Gets.
Like Moneyball, Trouble with the Curve is about people more than it is about Baseball. Gus has three months left on his contract and with the exception of his friend, Paul (John Goodman), people are starting to wonder whether he's still capable of doing his job. He's a dinosaur, preferring to dig through a pile of newspapers for statistics, rather than rely on computers for the information. His boss (Matthew Lillard) wants to replace him.
The thing is, there is some truth to the belief that Gus is struggling to do his job as a scout. His eyesight is failing and it doesn't go unnoticed. Paul pays him a visit and advises him of the situation, asking him if he has considered the future, but Gus won't listen. In desperation, Paul asks Gus's daughter, Mickey (Adams), to go on the road and help out her father with his latest scouting assignment. She's an ambitious lawyer, and on the verge of becoming a partner, but she agrees to squeeze it into her schedule and intervene.
Adams is a talented actress and I've been waiting for her to get a meaty role after earning an Oscar nomination for her performance in Doubt. Her role in The Fighter was too brief to count. I've yet to see The Master, but I came away thinking this was the best Amy Adams performance in the past four years. I mentioned that she is likable, but she's also good at what she does. There's a certain intelligence and vulnerability to her characters that I find appealing, and it's present in Mickey. She appears successful on the outside, but she has never been close to her father.
There are three main themes present in the movie:
If you have seen Absolute Power, you'll know that Eastwood is convincing as a father who has a problematic relationship with his daughter. One of the keys to Trouble with the Curve is seeing how Mickey attempts to resolve her issues with Gus.
The most obvious issue is with Gus, as old age threatens his livelihood. Director Robert Lorenz takes plenty of time at the outset to establish his characters, allowing us to get an idea of what is at stake. Is Gus washed up, or does he still have something to offer? I won't ruin that for you.
The other main theme is the ability to decide what constitutes happiness. It's different for everyone. Are you happy because you earn a good salary and thrive in your career? What about personal relationships and family? How about having time to enjoy your life?
It's clear that Gus is happy working as a baseball scout, but what isn't clear is how Mickey views her own life. Is she truly happy as a lawyer? Can she come to terms with the distance between her and her father? She's also romantically involved with a man who thinks of her as a commodity rather than as a woman he loves. He figures that they get along quite well and are both successful, so it would make sense for them to be together. He's not the most romantic of men.
That's the setup. As you can see, there are a lot of issues at stake.
One thing the movie does badly is make it obvious which characters you are supposed to root for, and who you should dislike. That flaw makes it easy to predict the outcome for Gus, Mickey, and at least three other minor characters. Those flaws aside, I enjoyed the pacing and the thorough characterization.
If this turns out to be Eastwood's final acting role, it's not a bad way to finish. As for Adams, it is good to see her in a role which allows her to show that she can actually act. I should also mention Justin Timberlake, who plays a former baseball player and young talent scout. He's also interested in Mickey if she'll let down her defenses long enough.
Trouble with the Curve isn't a great movie, but it's very good, and one that I want to own. It's a pleasure to spend time with the actors and the story has a lot of warmth. If you're a fan of Eastwood or Adams, I doubt that you'll be disappointed.