Home > Film > Trouble with the Curve (2012)

Trouble with the Curve (2012)

The question I’d like to ponder for a brief moment before getting to the review itself is whether a film is better if it’s predictable. Should we be allowed the gentle reassurance of the scriptwriters that everything will turn out as we expect? It’s kind of relaxing. There’s no stress or tension. No worry. Just the gentle process of confirmation as, one-by-one, all the dominoes fall in the line we foresaw from the outset. It happens in violent films like Dredd. You know the hero and the rookie will kill a large number of bad people in the name of justice and walk out of the building without a scratch. The only suspense, if any, lies in the “how” it will all work out. The same happens in romantic comedy where we have to sit through two hours of watching our couple slowly edge towards each other. In Trouble with the Curve (2012), the model is probably the older style Western in which the ageing Texas ranger and younger partner ride into Dry Gulch in search of someone who may be good or bad. They meet a bounty hunter and, together as a team, they corner the wanted one and then have to decide what to do with him.

Amy Adams mixing with the ordinary folks

 

With Gus Lobel (Clint Eastwood) and Mickey (Amy Adams), we have a dysfunctional relationship between a father and daughter. The daughter has an imperfect relationship of uncertain provenance with a bland attorney. She’s up for partner in her own law firm. The father is a baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves and, with the season’s draft coming up, the big question is whether to pick the guy with the best stats. The film is asking how best to judge the worth of a human being. Do you look at a computer file with all the game records properly indexed and analysed. Or do you look the beast in the eye and ask if it can play the game (or become a partner as the token woman)?

Gus Lobell (Clint Eastwood) and Johnny Flanagan (Justin Timberlake)

 

There’s nothing very earth-shattering in this plot. It’s been recycled endlessly. The father and daughter will more or less reconcile, the daughter will dump the bland one and take up with a more feisty dark horse — Johnny Flanagan (Justin Timberlake). She may even reach a decision about whether she wants to be a partner in the bloodsucking firm for which she works. All this is obvious within the first five minutes and the only real question is whether the gentle progress to the end will be enjoyable.

 

I suppose I’m predisposed to like this film because, as a pensioner who’s as sharp as the proverbial knife, I find it interesting to watch how similarly grey-haired oldsters are portrayed. In this instance, we have a positive parade of elderly actors proving that, if you have Clint Eastwood involved, there will be no prosthetics turning younger “stars” geriatric. Nor will there be extensive use of CGI to add wrinkles to faces. Apart from one or two young faces, almost everyone of importance is at least fifty (although only a babe-in-arms at that age, really). This is actually fun. It could have been sentimentalised but, for the most part, there’s a steady stream of bile and bad temper, of the kind of banter men have worked on and honed over decades of “friendship”. The only real sentimentality comes in the relationship between Clint Eastwood’s Gus and Pete Klein (John Goodman). But even that has a hard business edge to it. Although the Head of Scouts looks out for his “friend”, he will fail to renew the contract if the man starts to make the wrong calls. There’s too much money involved to allow feelings to get in the way of commercially necessary decisions.

Pete Klein (John Goodman) being a friend

 

So Clint Eastwood is losing his eyesight — maybe this is not acting at his age. Since his character makes his living by travelling around the little leagues looking for talent, he needs to be able to see where he’s going and watch how the young prospects play. To protect the club, John Goodman gets the daughter to go on the road with her father to look at a red-hot prospect. This is a singularly unpleasant young man who can apparently hit everything thrown at him out of the field. Obviously, these people of talent are not picked because of their likeability. If they can pitch or hit, they’re in demand even though they’re unloveable. Despite all the angst, the daughter is very knowledgeable about baseball and between them, father and daughter work out whether this youngster is actually a good prospect. It’s an appropriately ironic deus ex machina that seals the deal and sees justice done all round. It’s a shame things like this don’t happen in real life. We could all benefit from meritocratic principles applied to everyone no matter what their status or position in society. In the midst of this, another scout of appropriate age appears and the daughter is naturally interested. Well, he annoys her into being interested. So there you have it. As a plot, there’s nothing to it. But I enjoyed it for Clint Eastwood’s performance. Amy Adams was good out in the real world with ordinary folk but less convincing in the law firm with the partners. Attorneys who act like that would never be taken seriously and get trampled on in the fight to be partner — unless that’s the point. Perhaps we’re supposed to see her heart is never really in the fight for the partnership. Either way, it’s an OK performance. I was pleasantly surprised by Justin Timberlake. He made a good shot at being the “love interest” and emerged looking like a real human being.

 

Overall this makes Trouble with the Curve a pedestrian plot, directed by the numbers by first-timer Robert Lorenz, but nevertheless reasonably enjoyable because of the quality of the central performances.

 

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