By Jessica Delfanti | September 21, 2012
Director: Robert Lorenz
Writer: Randy Brown
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Robert Patrick, Matthew Lillard
Clint Eastwood has firmly established himself as a fantastic director of modern film–so much so, that it is easy to forget how extraordinary an actor he is. In his first acting turn in four years, Trouble with the Curve, Eastwood performs with finesse in the service of a touching, if predictable, product.
Trouble with the Curve follows baseball scout Gus (Eastwood), who, grumbling about old age and impending blindness, is struggling to perform the duties of his position in the tenuous modern age. His greatest opponents are, unsurprisingly, the changes to the game, the influence of technology, and the plugged-in, rabid youngsters (Matthew Lillard) that are intent on phasing the old geezer out.
Gus’s life is further complicated by his strained relationship with his adult daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams). When Mickey accompanies Gus on a scouting trip at the behest of his friend, Pete (John Goodman), Gus has to confront the implications of his professional and personal past.
The film is primarily played out between Adams and Eastwood, with a tightly written script by Randy Brown that reads with the intimacy and intensity of a play. Eastwood plays the aging Gus with a gruffness and deep-seated melancholy that makes the user wonder how much of it is acting. Opposite to the veteran Eastwood, Adams is fresh and emotionally brittle. Exploring Mickey’s issues with abandonment and emotional intimacy, Adams is a perfect foil to Eastwood’s austerity.
It isn’t surprising that two tested actors would perform so impressively. However, Justin Timberlake’s Johnny is an unexpected delight, and he plays the ex-baseball player, would-be broadcaster with a charming confidence that sets the role apart from his previous pop-performer appearances in duds like Bad Teacher and In Time.
Despite the strength of the cast and writing, the film lacks an essential element, a spark that draws the viewer in. Admittedly, hardcore baseball fans may find the intricacies of the baseball culture to be engaging as a standalone aspect, but unfamiliar viewers will find that the baseball plot lines are more of complimentary crutches for an old-fashioned (and aging) family drama. Certainly the chemistry between Adams and Eastwood can sustain the tension of their fragile relationship for part of the film, but their conversations become repetitive and predictable, and there is never any sense that things won’t turn out just fine.
Viewers anticipating a film with G-rated conflict and a straightforward approach to relationships will find Trouble with the Curve to be satisfying piece. Those searching for a more complicated assessment of the way that passion–for work, for family, for love–can consume one’s life may need to look elsewhere.