(Drama, PG-13, 111 minutes)
“Trouble with the Curve” is enveloped in newness. Robert Lorenz, a longtime fixture in Hollywood, took on this project as a first-time director. The screenplay is the first produced feature for writer Randy Brown. Joe Massingill plays a character crucial to the plot, but he is virtually an unknown. However, the presence of Clint Eastwood allows for decades of experience and a definite box office draw.
If you need any more proof that Georgia is the new Hollywood, it is evident in this film. Downtown Atlanta, Dunwoody, Macon and Conyers are some of the many filming locations. Our state can even turn into North Carolina, which it did for some of the movie.
But there’s no denying the red, white and blue of the Atlanta Braves and Turner Field, both prominently on display in the movie. Authenticity was important to Lorenz, as he indicated during a recent media tour in Atlanta.
“One flaw in the movie can unravel the whole thing,” he said. “If the baseball looked silly, none of it was going to work,” he said. “I was very keen on making sure everybody was believable.”
Gus Lobel (Eastwood) is a scout for the Atlanta Braves. He’s a widower with a 33-year-old daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams). It seems like the death of his wife was the start of the slow disintegration of their relationship. They try to maintain some of it, but it often ends in an argument.
The combination of their shared stubborn streak and hubris makes it appear as if they will never connect the way they desperately need to, both for sake of their relationship with each other and for others who want in. Nevertheless, they have other things that are taking priority.
Gus is an old man, set in his ways, especially when it comes to baseball talent. He’s heard of something called the Internet, but he believes there’s nothing more accurate than sitting in the bleachers, listening to the crack of the bat, and going with his gut. Crunching numbers and calculating out statistics and probability mean nothing to him when he can see things for himself.
However, his sight is failing him. However, the buzz surrounding Bo Gentry (Massingill) is too great to ignore. It’s no secret Bo is on the verge of playing the majors, but Gus wants to make sure he’s worth the trouble. The last stop before the MLB draft is Asheville, N.C.
Mickey, on the other hand, is on the verge of making partner at the firm where she works. She grew up going on baseball scouting trips with her dad and can impressively spout out facts. Just when she’s ready to throw in the towel with her dad, a family friend and fellow scout Pete (John Goodman) hits her with the news about Gus’ sight.
The timing couldn’t be worse as far as making partner is concerned, but Mickey shows up to the chagrin of her father and the delight of Johnny Flanagan (Justin Timberlake). Johnny threw out his arm, blowing his chance to continue professionally, and is instead a scout for the Boston Red Sox.
There is conflict throughout whole film, and Gus is always at the center of it. He’s fighting a losing battle with aging as well as a tortured past. Younger scouts such as Philip Sanderson (Matthew Lillard) scoff at Gus’ old-school tactics. He’d rather see Gus at a retirement home than the baseball diamond.
Gus loves his daughter but is a failure at articulating it. Warm moments between the two are few and far between. The harsh realities of their past are eventually revealed, adding more salt to the already deep wounds between them.
The acting, for the most part, is really superb. Loaded with Oscar and Golden Globe winners and nominees, it’s a fitting cast for the level of drama in the movie.
However, out of all the cast members, Timberlake seemed slightly out of place. Lorenz said he was looking for a likeable person for this role, and Timberlake fit the bill. However, the singer/actor came off as amateurish when pitted next to Eastwood and Adams.
Predictability is a given early on in the film, but I think audiences will be forgiving. “The Trouble with the Curve” might come off as a movie geared toward sports fans, but it’s far from that. It’s highly emotional on many levels.
Lorenz said roles for men in their 80s are few and far in between, but Eastwood was the only person who fit the bill. I think many will agree after they watch “Trouble with the Curve.”
The essence of this film reminded me of Eastwood’s two latest ones: “Gran Torino” in which he directed and starred in, and “J. Edgar,” where he only directed. These films were not entertaining, but I saw each of them twice because they were worth watching. Although “Trouble with the Curve” is Lorenz’s film, Eastwood definitely left his signature mark on it.