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Gold stars for Trouble with the Curve

Paul Peterson

I saw Trouble with The Curve the other night, and the night and the movie so exceeded my expectations that I’m giving gold stars all around.
Clint Eastwood stars as Gus, the usual gnarled crusty emotionless baseball scout with a beautiful, successful daughter, a wife who passed years ago but still is his constant companion and a career crisis looming at any point in time.
Meanwhile, for supporting characters we have the curiously interesting  Justin Timberlake who is becoming the Mark Wahlberg of boyband break-out success stories. That cat can act, or maybe he just has presence, but at no time does he annoy me and that’s a good thing.
Mix in the new character actor John Goodman as the old school GM of the parent club who has Gus’ back and Mathew Lillard as the weasel in waiting who couldn’t find talent if it bit him, but he seems to have the owners ear, and he wants Gus out.
In the words of Supertramp, crisis. What Crisis?
Ok there’s the random pop culture reference. But I digress.
Eastwood established his brand long ago and his specialty has been exactly this character. Dead inside guy who is circling the drain but has one last shot at redemption, which he’s almost guaranteed to pass on.
I am happy every time he has a new film to be reviewed because it gives me a chance to rail against Million Dollar Baby. If you’re ever worried that you’re feeling a little too good about your life, if you’re worried that you might never know the empty void of long term depression, just pop that bad boy in the dvd player and all will be unwell very, very soon.
So, I was expecting someone to take a beating or get a terminal illness after winning the lottery.
Spoiler alert. Stop reading if you don’t want to capture the essence of the film.
Eastwood is his usual craftsman. He lives and breathes and owns the role. There are times when the director seems to want us to examine the road map of his face a little too much. We get it. He looks like Rango’s grandpa after a bad lifetime stuck in a tanning bed in the mojave. But there are glimmers.
That cat knows his baseball. He’s a relic and is losing his eyesight, but there’s a kid coming up who he has to check out before the draft and if he blows this one, he’s out.
Speaking of career crisis, his daughter Mickey, named for Mickey Mantle, is about to become the first female partner in her very prestigious law firm. There’s a big case looming but Pete (Goodman) asks her to help her dad because something’s wrong and well, he just needs her.
We’ve seen these two in a few scenes that demonstrate their rocky relationship. She’s angry and confused because he abandoned her a year after her mom died by sending her off to relatives to live instead of keeping her with him on the road.
He doesn’t talk because he’s a dude, but she keeps trying because she’s a functioning human being.
Justin Timberlake enters stage left as the former star that Gus scouted and then signed only to see him flame out when he was mishandled by the parent club.
Ok there’s your backdrop. The kid they’re scouting is a mean-spirited prima donna wannabe named Bo. It’s like naming your daughter Candy. She’s going to end up on a stripper’s pole and Bo is going to bench press a cow and eventually kill someone with his breath.
There are rules.
There’s a lot to like here. The casting is exceptional. Amy Adams own the screen anytime she’s in a scene. There’s something charming and natural about her delivery and she holds her own against Clint which is no small accomplishment.
Speaking of Mt Rushmore, he shows a little range. He does disaffectedly angry so well we forget he has some other emotions and there’s even a minor epiphany here. Actually, for me this was a much more satisfying character this time out. I wanted to like this guy, and eventually he gives us a way to that end.
The story itself is incidental in some ways but that doesn’t make it any less satisfying when we finally get there.
The thing that surprised me was how almost cliche the writing and directing was. Don’t take that the wrong way.
I think we live in times where we are so jaded that people think we need to only see bad things happen to good and bad people otherwise we don’t believe it. I swear if there’s one more gritty drama on HBO they’re going to have to start killing members of the audience because they’re running out of places to go with the dark side of characterization.
That’s a much too wordy way of saying this movie just might have a happy ending that’s so predictable  you can see it coming from space, and you’re glad when it gets here.
If I weren’t too cool for the room, I might have cheered.
Ok that’s not true, but I was pretty happy walking out of the theatre.
Most of Eastwood’s cronies are here, actors and directors, and the film looks as good as we have come to expect.
The baseball stuff is as accurate as it needs to be and while some of the time lines are a little exaggerated, it just works all over the place.
Trouble With The Curve is a really good movie, and while it didn’t change my life, it made Sunday night a little more entertaining. In my books that’s worth the price of admission and then some.
As always, other opinions are welcome, but wrong. That’s it for this week. The cheque’s in the mail and I’m outta here. Paul

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElsePaul Peterson

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