Trouble with the Curve
US DVD: 18 Dec 2012
Gus Lobel (Clint Eastwood) is getting old. He swears at his penis in the mornings when it fails to produce a strong productive stream of urine. When he bumps into a coffee table that has probably stood in the same place for years, he gets so agitated he kicks the piece of furniture across the room. A baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves, his career is hanging in the balance. More importantly, he has a strained relationship with his daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), a young lawyer whose career is on the rise.
When Gus starts experiencing health problems that interfere with his ability to do his job, Mickey feels obligated to accompany her dad on what could be his last scouting trip. Trouble with the Curve is about more than an absentee father and a young woman with daddy issues, and it’s definitely about more than baseball. Trouble with the Curve illustrates how, in the midst of our reliance on modern technology, we’ve lost the ability to communicate and trust our own instincts. The more “connected” we become, the more isolated we feel.
Gus Lobel lives alone. His wife died in 1984, and he hasn’t remarried. When it comes to his job he’s considered by some to be a relic. His latest pick isn’t performing. He refuses to base his decisions on computer programs and statistical analysis. This attitude hasn’t been missed by a hot shot in the front office named Phillip Sanderson (Matthew Lillard). He has the ear of the general manager, Vince (Robert Patrick), who decides to give Gus a shot scouting a particularly hot prospect, Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill). Gentry may go as the Boston Red Sox’s first round draft choice. However, if they pass, Vince and Sanderson want him for the Braves.
The timing couldn’t be worse for Gus to start noticing his vision deteriorating at an alarming rate. His family doctor insists Gus see a specialist, but Gus refuses to take the time off from work. Luckily for Gus, his friend of 30 years and director of scouting Pete (John Goodman) can tell his friend is not himself, and asks Gus’s daughter to go with him on the trip. Initially, Mickey refuses but after speaking to Gus’s doctor, obligation wins out, and she shows up a minor league ballpark toting her laptop, cell phone and a big chip on her shoulder.
Thrown into the mix is a washed-up ball player Johnny Flanagan (Justin Timberlake) who Gus scouted when Johnny was still a young pitcher. Johnny is scouting Gentry as well but is more interested in Mickey than his job.
Predictably, Gus insists he doesn’t need any help, but he eventually relents. Mickey struggles to balance her life back home, her burgeoning attraction to Johnny and her desire to better understand why her father chose not to be a significant presence in her life. It turns out that after the death of his wife, Gus sent Mickey to live with an aunt and an uncle for a year. After six years of ballparks and pool halls, Gus sent Mickey to boarding school until she left for college.
Although the two spent a great deal of time apart, they are more similar than Mickey would like to admit. She has an encyclopedic knowledge of baseball and truly loves the game. Mickey is tough and focused and fiercely protective of her vulnerable side. She also doesn’t ever seem to feel the need to hold back. When her boyfriend, who she didn’t even tell she was leaving town, calls and says he wants more of a commitment, Mickey tries to buy herself more time. You get the sense that when it comes to their relationship, she is constantly withholding.
Mickey holds her father accountable for all of her life choices. She became a lawyer to make him proud and get his attention. She’s closed off, more comfortable texting when in the midst of a conversation with Flanagan than the intimacy of face to face communication. But, Gus won’t take responsibility for her choices. He can only justify his own actions. Gus is a man who initially felt no need to change; always relying on gut instinct. In his professional life it worked, but his personal life suffered. Whether Gus has any regrets isn’t clear. After Mickey pours her heart out to him he simply says, “I’m just a broken-down old man, and you should just get as far away from me as you can.”
It turns out that Gus had what he felt were valid reasons for putting distance between his life and Mickey’s, but he never bothered to explain them before. Even when Mickey gets the answers she’s been looking for they fail to fully bridge the fissure between them.
Timberlake’s character is superfluous to the plot. He’s little more than a sounding board for Mickey and her complaints about Gus. The romantic relationship between Mickey and Flanagan seems forced, and they have a better chemistry as friends.
The best part of Trouble with the Curve is that Mickey isn’t satisfied with her dad’s explanation. There are other sub plots tied up a little too neatly and conveniently, but the relationship between Mickey and Gus still has a way to go. At best, they’ve learned they have more in common than they realized and sometimes a shared love of baseball is a good place to start.
The special features are thin. There’s a very short film that focuses primarily on the relationship between the director, Robert Lorenz, and Clint Eastwood. The two men have worked together for nearly 20 years. Lorenz started as an assistant director and worked his way up to a producer. The second short feature is nothing more than a love fest among the actors and the director with every significant player praising how great is one to work with one another.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. We need your help to keep PopMatters strong and growing. Thank you.
"PopMatters (est. 1999) is a respected source for smart long-form reading on a wide range of topics in culture. PopMatters serves as…READ the article