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Trouble With the Curve

tn_troublewiththecurveI don’t know if this is true but I heard it’s good luck for movie critics to start a year with a Clint Eastwood review. So I saved TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE for the occasion.

It’s a pretty standard mainstream feel-good-about-everything-at-the-end father-daughter relationship drama, but I couldn’t resist it because Clint plays the stubborn old grump dad and Amy Adams plays the daughter. She’s pissed off and sarcastic through half the movie but I’m still powerless in the face of her charms. I’m sorry.

Here’s the situation: Gus (Clint) is a veteran scout for the Braves baseball team, sent to evaluate some young hot shot out in North Carolina (Scott Eastwood). But Gus is secretly losing his eyesight and openly losing favor in the organization to a young douchebag (Matthew Lillard) who prefers modern methods involving computers and statistics. Gus’s best friend (John Goodman with an impressive mustache) worries they’re gonna drop him if something goes wrong, so he begs Gus’s estranged lawyer daughter Mickey (Adams) to come keep an eye on him. Meanwhile, a young pitching-phenom-turned-scout who Gus likes (Justin Timberlake) helps out and tries to woo Mickey.

Gus and the other old guys (including Ed Lauter of DEATH WISH 3 and THE ARTIST) just sit in the bleachers watching minor league games. Sometimes Mickey has to fill in for his eyes. Then they go to a bar at night. Mickey helps with the scouting while constantly checking phone and laptop to prepare a big presentation, prevent a potential coup at the firm and pacify an annoying boyfriend back home. Meanwhile, her main goal is to try to talk to her dad about how him not being around when she was a kid has damaged her, but he reacts to the idea of talking about emotions with abject terror, his eyes getting big like Clint’s normally might when he realizes who the killer is or something.

mp_troublewiththecurveClint didn’t direct this, but did it as a favor to rookie director Robert Lorenz, an assistant director to Eastwood since BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY and producer at Malpaso since BLOOD WORK. This is a Malpaso production, with some of Clint’s usual collaborators: cinematographer Tom Stern, editors Joel Cox and Gary Roach, production designer James J. Murakami, etc. And there’s a nice scene where Adams and Timberlake dance to a street musician playing blues guitar that could’ve been in a Clint directorial work. So in many ways it reminds you of his movies, but I think he likes grey area and nuance, two big things mostly missing in this script by first-timer Randy Brown.

Lots of on the nose here. Mickey has expository dialogue about what her job is and how she was raised, she reveals her baseball knowledge through a baseball trivia challenge. Her oppressive job of course has to be at a law firm, because we all hate lawyers, and they wear suits, not baseball hats. They sit in offices, not out in the sun. I always enjoy an anti-everybody-doing-shit-on-their-phones-all-the-time message, but the way they use that to constantly show Mickey’s workaholicism or whatever is pretty over-the-top.

They also do that thing where Gus teases Mickey about being vegan, and then out of the blue she just starts eating hot dogs to show that she cool again. It’s weird how to screenwriters something like that can only be used as a symbol of uptightness and not ever as an actual conviction that an intelligent person could truly believe in. I guess we’ll have to wait until the prestigious WWE Films decides to make a MARINE sequel starring Daniel Bryan. (He’s a wrestler who’s a vegan which I know because he’s from Aberdeen, Washington and I read an article about him.)

The scouting prospect is an egomaniacal asshole so we won’t feel bad about what happens to him. He even gets a bully comeuppance from a minor character who turns out to be important. Mickey’s boyfriend and Lillard’s character are also treated as bad guys instead of complicated humans. For Lillard they even throw in a last minute sexist comment, when he’s trying to shoot down Gus’s scouting report and makes fun of him basing it partly on “what your daughter, a girl, saw.”

And there are alot of the cliches, such as the one where the boy says “Come on,” and the girl says “Where are we going?” and he says “You’ll figure it out when we get there,” and through the magic of editing we believe that they really drove out to the lake without further discussing where they were going and then they go night-swimming together in their underwear and it’s spontaneous and romantic.

At the end I sat and listed in my head everything that worked out well for each character’s profession, their relationships and their personal happiness, and it was clear it was laying it on a little thick. It could almost be one of those Adam Sandler movies where they want to give every character a little happy ending even though they know it’s ridiculous.

I know some of these things work to make it a crowdpleaser, and they kinda work on me even, but more complex would be a better movie. Clint looks for more humanity. When he takes shotcuts like that they stick out, like the unpopular Hilary Swank’s Despicable Family scene in MILLION DOLLAR BABY.

Therefore, it’s all up to the cast to make you like it, and this is a damn likable cast. Gus is a more socially respectable version of Walter from GRAN TORINO. He does the growling and comedic unfriendliness and everything. Right at the beginning he gets in a fight with a coffee table and calls it a bitch. He never uses guns, but pulls a broken beer bottle on a guy.

Adams, as I implied, is adorable even when she’s a mess, but I don’t mean that to be demeaning. She’s a really good actress, does most of the actual acting here, and most of the emotion. She has some very effective moments. It should be noted though that Clint also cries in a scene, and it’s pretty powerful to see a shell like that crack.

Between those two we really don’t need a third likable co-star, but Timberlake gets to swoop in and just be a nice guy who tries to make Mickey laugh when she’s upset, and he’s good at that. They have a good chemistry.

And I don’t want to be completely down on the script. I’d prefer more subtlety, but it’s a good yarn. I like the part where the scouts are arguing about Ice Cube’s acting career. And Gus has a good cold-hearted snipe at his daughter: “I’ve got half a beer back at the bar that won’t argue with me.” Never use that one on your daughter or old lady, fellas.

It’s amusing to compare this to MONEYBALL, which had as the underdog a younger guy who uses statistics and math for scouting, and is right, but gets shut out by the stuck-in-their-ways old timers. And he’s an asshole too, seems to enjoy firing people, but because he’s proven correct about how to put together a good baseball team he’s the good guy. TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE – which unlike MONEYBALL has no basis in a true story – is the reverse. Brad Pitt becomes Lillard, the young asshole with the computer, the one who’s out of touch because he doesn’t use the old ways, he just looks at numbers, doesn’t go to the games and listen to the sound of the pitches. MONEYBALL uses the advanced age and the hearing aids of the scouts a joke, this movie respects its olders and their presumed experience and wisdom. MONEYBALL argued that they had to stop listening to the old guys, TROUBLE says that they have stopped and that it’s a mistake. MONEYBALL seems more real, but shit, I’m glad Clint is right in this one. It would be a depressing movie if he retires in shame and Matthew Lillard gets to be right.

So, TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE is kinda bullshit, but kinda nice.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 1st, 2013 at 12:24 pm and is filed under Drama, Reviews, Sport. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

23 Responses to “Trouble With the Curve”

  1. I’m not a movie critic, but I did watch JOE KIDD today and I liked it, so…does that count?

    And Daniel Bryan at least has a sense of humour about his Veganism, as displayed in this recent scene with FEAR NO EVIL star, Kane:


  3. This is one of the 2012 movies Mutombo liked the least, along with Lockout. I saw it for a few reasons – I’m a big Braves fan, plus curiosity about seeing Clint do this kind of material, for a different director than himself no less.

    Like you said, it’s not a film that’s much interested in nuance. As a baseball fan, the whole crusty scouts vs. punks with computers narrative was bullshit in Moneyball, and it’s bullshit here when the sympathies are reversed. And, I know a lot of people are buying into Timberlake as an actor now, but to me he comes off like a soulless husk.

    But holy crap does Amy Adams act the hell out of this one. I’m not sure the movie even ‘deserves’ a performance this good, but I was grateful for it either way. I think there’s a lot of emotional truth in some of her scenes, and I won’t pretend I wasn’t moved at points. So I definitely agree with the last line of your review.

  4. I just wish Vern watched the professional wrestlings so we could all chat about how great Daniel Bryan is :(

  5. I thought this was decent. Yes I wouldn’t disagree with the problems, but I still enjoyed it even if I won’t drag this out and rewatch it as much as Clint’s highlights. Think of this like THE GAUNTLET, but shot up bus replaced by baseball draft drama.

    In fact I’m reminded of the recent JACK REACHER in that both movies you know pretty much what to expect going in, and they pretty much delivered upon those expectations as programmers. Not a knock, I enjoyed both which had good casts for even the most routine of parts. Like JACK REACHER, I consider this a “walk, don’t run” to go see it.

    My one problem honestly with CURVE is the 3rd act with the draft. Organizations don’t hinge draft pick analysis to 1 or 2 scouts and their dueling philosophies. $ million and jobs are at stake, they analyze and re-analyze this shit to death before they’re comfortable making their picks. Then that whole resolution and the dickhead player getting his just dessert (this is an Eastwood movie after all) was really quite…well it really came out of left field didn’t it? *RRA is pelted with rotten vegetables.* But it was still entertaining.

    Also as a baseball fan, both CURVE and MONEYBALL with their dueling philosophies of scouting…why can’t we just say both work and have their advantages, and their blind spots that both can help remedy? Yes Billy Beane took the A’s to the playoffs, but how many other Moneyball teams have had success? It’s a mixed record, which proves that there is no magic bullet method. (And honestly we forget that Beane did what he did in Oakland because he had a low budget to work with. He wouldn’t have done Moneyball if he the payroll of say the Yankees.)

    Casey – YES! YES! YES! *cough* sorry. I’m rather loving the Odd Couple tag teaming with good ole trustey veteran Kane.

  6. Come to think of it, I remember bashing SPACE COWBOYS when Vern reviewed it and CJ Holden said that pretty much in spite of the supposed flaws I was picking apart, he still likes it regardless.

    I guess of the Clint movies, this would be my such pick then.

    (You know, I realize now I’ve never seen BRONCO BILLY. Wow was that?)

  7. RRA – JACK REACHER is one of the Great Badass Films of 2012 for me. It delivered way more than I expected. Even if you weren’t that into it, I think it deserves better than to be in the company of Trouble With The Curve.

    I won’t get too deep into the Moneyball stuff so as not to bore everyone, but the narrative Michael Lewis presented was pretty fraudulent and self-serving, and the more time that passes since it was published the worse it looks (and the worse the movie looks for buying into it unquestioningly. Man would I have killed to see Soderbergh’s take on the material…)

  8. Dikembe Mutombo – I will give you that unlike CURVE, shot conventionally and economically like TV, JACK REACHER had obvious directorial flair (ambitions of it) here and there. The opening sniper sequence was well crafted, I enjoyed a car chase that wasn’t post-action (too bad that sequence’s wonderful punchline got spoiled by the ads).

    In short, I can see why Paramount is high up on Chris McQuarrie to direct the next MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE picture or that Tom Clancy adaptation WITHOUT REMORSE w/ Tom Hardy. He could pull off either/both, and honestly if not for Paramount wanting him, I could actually see Marvel picking him up and do a movie for them for pennies. Also Werner Herzog was good fun as the villain.

    On the downside, JR is pointlessly too fatty. 10 minutes, maybe 15 minutes too long. If Eastwood had produced that movie, he would’ve made sure that fucker was under 2 hours and cut down, condense the script. (seriously how many Eastwood vehicles ever feel too long?) Its one thing to be long like HOBBIT where the length was part of it and there is a reason, its another when that problem should’ve been dealt with on the script/production stage. (Its one thing for the Internet to randomly say cut out 20 minutes, its another when you have to pinpoint which scenes have to go without the movie losing flavor and becoming nonsensical like DAREDEVIL. I admire that Nolan tries to avoid that problem if possible at the script stage.)

    Also, the clusterfuck ending. How is Reacher able to walk away from that scene despite his fingerprints clearly everywhere? Either I misheard or misunderstood how he pulled that off, or…the movie should’ve done a better job. Even worse is that ending shot like its a fucking comic book movie or something. I’m sure it sounded cool on paper or conceptually, but for me it inadvertedly comes off as goofy. Like I can see that working for an iconic, well known character full of history like Superman or whatever. But Jack Reacher is the beginning of a possible film franchise, based off some popular airport novels, though I think maybe they had a problem by naming it JACK REACHER since most folks would react with “who?”

    I know its picky picky shit, but despite all that I still quite enjoyed JACK REACHER. I liked that somebody in another thread who called it a Steven Seagal movie without Steven Seagal. It makes sense, and it works quite well on that level.

    CURVE has no real highlights like REACHER did, but it has no distracting glaring flaws so it it aims for Middle of the Road. From my POV, both reach the same level of decent execution, if only one actually has filmatic ambition.

    As for MONEYBALL, well yeah you’re deadon. I just think of Beane’s A’s records after that book came out.


  9. JACK REACHER might have been a few minutes too long, but the filmmaking was lean and mean. McQuarrie’s sensibility as a writer/director is restrained and low on bullshit and frills. His approach is patient and methodical, which compliments the procedural aspect of the movie (surprisingly entertaining in that respect), but the pacing isn’t slack. And when it comes to the action – I don’t want to get hyperbolic but I’d have to say I was almost blown away by the action in REACHER. The climactic shootout is one of the best I’ve ever seen, with its emphasis on clear geography and how we see every character reacting and executing their own strategies. The car chase, scoreless and showcasing realistic physics, is also a standout. The visual storytelling there is so clear and good, it was really a joy to behold.

    In short, it’s a 70s-style Man Movie of the sort that hardly anyone makes this well anymore. The Reacher character is completely absurd, but the movie knows this and has fun with it – but without undercutting him in a shitty, winky EXPENDABLES 2 kind of way.

    Also, not to disrespect Clint, but I don’t think he’s the no-fat filmmaker you paint him as anymore – Invictus, J. Edgar and Changeling were all longer than Reacher, and they sure as hell felt like it too. And c’mon, Nolan? His movie this year was 45 minutes too long, not 10!

  10. caruso_stalker217

    January 1st, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    I don’t know. I really haven’t wanted to see this at all after coming to the conclusion that it should have been a Philo Beddoe movie. I mean Geoffrey Lewis is still alive and working. They could still keep Amy Adams as the daughter (she could be a foxy boxer instead of a lawyer) and they could replace the Justin Timberlake character with Clyde Jr.

    You know you want to see it.

  11. Dikembe Mutombo – I do agree the murder mystery was engaging, but I guess I wasn’t as impressed with what you’re praising (other than that car chase). Yes in someways a throwback, in a good way. But…I just find it to be a good movie. Nothing more. Its nice they don’t undercut the whole concept, as you put it, even though somebody who has no love or interest in these sort of movies (unlike us) would be awfully tempted to wink wink.

    I call bullshit on you citing INVICTUS and CHANGELING as too long. Neither feel like a chore. I was kinda impressed by that fact in INVICTUS considering I don’t know dick about Rugby rules. Haven’t seen J. EDGAR.

    Oh and on that certain Nolan movie we won’t name for Majestyk’s sake, why 45 minutes exactly? I take it in your head you know what you would’ve axed in the editing booth if you had some magic scissors?

    With JACK REACHER, there wasn’t scenes you could’ve cut as the movie it was cut. Again a slight script problem, but oh well shit happens. Besides why are we arguing over a movie we both liked?

    caruso – why didn’t he make another monkey comedy? Those damn things made a fortune back in the day. But I suppose I give Clint credit for knowing when to quit I guess. Also I guess he got tired of having to act with an ape and its fleas.

  12. @caruso_stalker217: I propose an alternate idea… a buddy cop movie with Timberlake and an orangutan. Maybe have Clint play the grizzled police captain who periodically chews them out for their maverick/outre simian approach to the job. And Amy Adams can be the hot & spicy yet determined I.A. officer who’s looking to pin a charge of excessive use of bananas on Clyde IV.

    Sounds like a plan.

  13. I don’t care if it’s unfair and irrational, but I’m kinda mad at Eastwood for his decision to start acting again. He had the perfect ending to his career with GRAN TORINO and should have left it at that that.

  14. pegsman – perhaps, but I’m like Vern I suppose: we’re greedy. We don’t mind more Clint.

    Larry – I would watch that movie.

  15. RRA, I don’t know. If he’d only do something fun once in a while, like an EXPENDABLES cameo or a mean old sidekick in a western, I wouldn’t mind the chair talking, mellow old wise man Clint, but as it is now it’s more frustrating than exciting to watch him.

  16. caruso_stalker217

    January 2nd, 2013 at 2:38 pm


    You win.

  17. pegsman – he’s been doing that since what, the 1980s?

    Then again I remember times when people were “tired” of Clint. The last time I remember that sentiment was after BLOOD WORK (a good movie) which flopped if I remember correctly. (Looking up back in I believe 1990 or 91, he had both THE ROOKIE and WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART. Both flopped. ROOKIE I still think sucks, but WHBH is damn good.)

    The funny thing was afterwards he did MYSTIC RIVER, which then made him a respectable director (instead of apparently just an Oscar-winning director according to them) and added more life to his career.

  18. Fun Fact that I’m surprised Vern didn’t mention: This is the first movie Clint acted in but didn’t direct since IN THE LINE OF FIRE.

    (excluding cameos like CASPER.)

  19. RRA, don’t get me wrong. I’ve loved every single movie Eastwood has been a part of from 1964 to 2008. I just think that GRAN TORINO was such a perfect way to end perfect career that I would really hate to see him round it of in the same way Bronson and Marvin did.

  20. Clint’s probably got another great performance in him, but he just doesn’t want to direct himself anymore. I’ve heard as much alluded to before. Not just that, but from what I heard about his process he doesn’t do very many takes. That has probably been a big reason why he hasn’t worked with too many name directors once he started doing it himself. Makes sense in a way but kind of sad, too. I watched Ridley Scott on Charlie Rose, and Charlie brought up Clint (as he’s wont to do) and Ridley said he always wanted to do a Western with him.

  21. Adams’ performance is actually why this movie was recommended to me in the first place. I hadn’t even heard of Trouble with the Curve until yesterday when one of my coworkers at DISH started telling me about how awesome Amy Adams is in it. So even though it doesn’t seem like my style of movie, I plan on giving it a try. I figure “why not?” it’s not like there’s any risk since I have DISH’s Blockbuster @Home, which is a subscription rental service for video games and movies. And since I pay the same thing for it every month, no matter how many movies or games I go through, it’s already factored into my budget. So I’m putting Trouble with the Curve in my Blockbuster @Home queue now, and since they ship quickly, I expect I’ll get to watch it soon!

  22. That’s the weirdest spam I’ve seen lately, I can’t bring myself to delete it.

  23. Man I wish I liked Amy Adams as much as everyone else does – I thought she actually had zero chemistry with Timberlake here (I mean, that doesn’t even sound like a combo that works even on paper) and she had zero chemistry with Cavill in Man of Steel. Of course, this could be from problems with the script or the director or the other actor, who knows, but now I think about it, I’m having trouble thinking of a performance of hers that’s really blown me away. She’s certainly not “bad” or irritating (well except Julie and Julia but I’m pretty sure that was the character she was given), but I think she’s perfectly serviceable and inoffensively nice, the female Patrick Wilson.

    As for the movie itself, it’s about the same – pleasant, forgettable (except for that one 3rd act suppressed memory-revelation that seriously comes out of nowhere and literally seems like something out of a Tyler Perry movie)

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