Trouble with the Curve is the ultimate anti-Moneyball movie. Many members of the baseball community in the US, most of them relatively old, still have difficulty accepting that their game can be won by someone who’s good at maths. Trouble with the Curve is a celebration of those old scouts you saw battling against Brad Pitt in Moneyball; the people who believe that it’s all about athletic ability, and good old-fashioned gut instincts.
Is Trouble with the Curve as good as Moneyball? No. Not even close. Moneyball was a film that had great flares of originality and snappy writing separating out the obligatory moments of sports cliche. Trouble with the Curve however makes no attempt to do anything new. It’s exactly the same baseball movie that’s been on the big screen since Eight Men Out and Field of Dreams. And yet, Trouble with the Curve still works. It’s still watchable and rather solid. You don’t have to look far to see why. It’s all down to a certain man called Clint Eastwood, who proves he’s still one of the best actors around.
Eastwood plays Gus, and ageing baseball scout who’s soon stopped in his tracks when his sight starts failing. It goes without saying that without perfect sight, he can’t work. So he turns to his estranged daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), who reluctantly agrees to join him on one last recruiting trip before Gus brings his illustrious scouting career to a close.
Yes, Clint Eastwood may have been playing the same character for quite a few years now, but here he’s near his most engaging. His performance is perfectly tuned. It’s still a little hard to believe that this is the same man last seen ranting at an empty chair at the Republican Party convention. Opposite him his Amy Adams, who’s quickly proving to be one of the best young actors in Hollywood. She goes toe-to-toe with Eastwood and delivers a strong performance. The only problem is, they don’t quite have the right chemistry. It’s close, but they just can’t quite connect.
Herein lies the film’s main problem; while most of the performances are good, their chemistry lacks and sort of spark. The worst relationship is between Mickey and Johnny (Justin Timberlake), a scout who was once one of Gus’ big baseball prospects. Timberlake doesn’t deliver the best of performances, often appearing to be very flat, and his relationship storyline with Amy Adams is incredibly irritating. However the always reliable John Goodman makes an appearance as Pete Klein, who aides Eastwood in keeping the film on the rails.
Clint Eastwood’s producing partner Robert Lorenz, who has produced the last twelve films for him, takes the director’s chair, after Eastwood decided he didn’t want to direct this one. Lorenz has clearly learnt a lot from the veteran Eastwood; making the film efficiently and keeping it at an unhurried pace. Lorenz in the past has worked as second-unit director when Eastwood was directing, so he’s had plenty of first hand experience. Despite that, it’s surprising that Lorenz is able to make such a solid film whilst making his directorial debut.
The bigger story though are the rumours circulating around Hollywood that this will be the last time Eastwood appears in front of a camera. He hasn’t confirmed or denied these rumours, but it’s hard not to read a little too deep into some scenes. For example, at one point while talking to a player, Gus tells him that no matter what, family is the most important thing. The actor Eastwood shares the scene with is Scott Eastwood, his son. Read into that what you will.
Will Clint Eastwood get another Oscar nod? It’s quite possible. In fact, if it becomes public knowledge that this will be his last acting appearance, then you can almost say he’s a dead cert. He had originally planned on Gran Tarino being his final acting role, and that probably would have been the better choice. That’s not to say Trouble with the Curve isn’t a good film. It is. It may be straightforward and filled to the rafters with cliche, but it’s so solidly made that you don’t really care. Sometimes it’s just nice to sit back and watch a story be told beautifully.
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