Monday, October 15, 2012

Trouble with the Curve Movie Review

I have to give Clint Eastwood a lot of credit for his acting choices as he gets older. He has never shied away from playing his age, a rarity in a business that rewards youth and vigor. Roughly since Unforgiven he has continued to play characters whose age has some profound impact on the story. As Gus in Trouble with the Curve, Eastwood plays a baseball scout who faces irrelevancy by the new technologies and theories that have a way of creeping into the workplace.

Gus likes to do things the old fashioned way: with his eyes and ears when he travels around the country watching high school prospects play the game. Phil (Matthew Lillard), his colleague with the Atlanta Braves, uses a computer and a complex matrix to determine who they should chase for their draft pick. In this respect, it’s very much the anti-Moneyball, which was all about a baseball guy who decided to put together a team strictly by the numbers and had a pretty successful run at it. Trouble with the Curve, written by Randy Brown and directed by Eastwood’s longtime collaborate Robert Lorenz (he has worked as an assistant director on several of Eastwood’s films), is very traditionalist.

With young blood breathing down his neck and gunning for his job, he needs a friend like his boss Pete (John Goodman) to get his back, which he does by asking Gus’s daughter, Mickey, to tag along on his scouting trip. Brown makes Mickey into the film’s second protagonist by providing her a character enough complexity and conflict to make us almost care more about her predicament than Gus’s. As a career woman in an Atlanta law firm, she’s nearly got a direct line on a partnership if she can just drive home this big case coming up. She puts all that in jeopardy by going to help out her father. I was afraid the film was going to treat her like so many Hollywood movies treat career women by having her realize that family and her personal development as a human being are more important than some silly promotion at work, but Brown finds a way to keep old material a little bit fresh. She tries desperately to do both things at once. We know this probably won’t work out for her on both fronts and if it did the movie would ring absolutely false so something’s got to give. Amy Adams approaches Mickey like she does most of her roles – as a tough and adamant young woman. With each movie, Adams develops further into the great actress she might be one day. For now she continues to be a solid character actress, with the cute good looks that win hearts, the energy to push a film forward, and the resolve to get what she wants.

Justin Timberlake costars as Johnny, a young scout and former Major League pitcher who flamed out in his rookie year. Because they’re all following the same high school prospect, a cocky little prick whose risible behavior and attitude make it impossible that the film will do anything other than humiliate him in the end, Johnny and Mickey are always occupying the same space allowing for a romance to blossom – or not. Johnny has a knack for turning around his pursuit of Mickey to make it seems as if it’s her pursuing him.

Trouble with the Curve is a real Hollywood movie in the classic sense, although don’t take that to mean this is going to turn out to be a classic. On the contrary, it’s a film that is just as easily digested and forgotten as it is consumed. The conflict between Mickey and Gus has some history going back to her childhood split between traveling with him and being shipped off to boarding school after her mother’s death. Their past is alluded to in several flashbacks, but the true nature of Mickey’s psychological issues come to the fore in the not so dramatic conclusion, by which point the more astute members of the audience will have already guessed what’s going on. It doesn’t require a great deal of investment on the part of the audience and doesn’t ever ask for much. The loose ends are all tied together in the film’s final scenes. Everything gets wrapped up with a little bow on top with the bigwigs in the baseball scouting office drawing conclusions in the space of three minutes what would, in real life, take the course of an entire season. But such is the classical Hollywood style: make ‘em laugh and make ‘em cry and in the end everyone gets what they deserve. Movies like this tend to be well-liked, but fade from memory eventually becoming a footnote in the annals of film history.

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