Film

Age Before Acuity: 'Trouble with the Curve'

This is the anti-Moneyball movie, a sports film where the ins and outs of same are kept closed off and clandestine.


Trouble with the Curve

Director: Robert Lorenz
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Robert Patrick, Matthew Lillard, Bob Gunton, George Wyner, Jack Gilpin, Ed Lauter, Chelcie Ross
Rated: PG-13
Studio: Warner Bros.
Year: 2012
US date: 2012-09-21 (General release)
UK date: 2012-11-30 (General release)
Website
Trailer

God bless Clint Eastwood. Instead of collecting Social Security and trading on his already stellar cinematic reputation, he keeps exploring. He's always looking for ways to expand his legendary motion picture mythos. Sometimes, his creative efforts lead to critical acclaim (Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River) and commercial success (Gran Torino). On occasion, his otherwise stellar aesthetic stumbles (J Edgar, Hereafter), but for the most part, he's been more than reliable for close to five decades. Interestingly enough, age sits at the center of his latest effort, the baseball themed dramedy Trouble with the Curve. Eastwood plays an ailing scout for the Atlanta Braves. When vision issues threaten his job, his best pal (John Goodman) arranges to have his distant daughter (Amy Adams) join him on a final, pre-draft jaunt through North Carolina.

There, a prospect named Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill) has a few major league GMs in a panic. He's apparently destined to go Number One, but the Braves aren't so sure. Sending Gus (Eastwood) may be his buddy's way of showing support, but the rest of the management team (Matthew Lillard, Robert Patrick) aren't so sure. Hedging his bet, Pete (Goodman) approach Mickey (Adams), a high profile Atlanta lawyer, to take some time and help her dad out. She's reluctant, because of both bad memories from her past, and an important presentation that may lead to a partnership. Naturally, she ends up on the road tour, meeting up with rival scout Johnny (Justin Timberlake) along the way. As they begin an awkward flirtation, Gus discovers something that may make Bo's dreams of superstardom just that...

Trouble with the Curve should have been better. It should have made up its mind what it wanted to be from the very beginning and stuck with said specific storyline. Instead, it tends to wander aimlessly from idea to idea, never once settling down to really delve into the intrigues and issues presented. After all, within the span of a few characters, we have age discrimination, gender equality complaints, commitment phobia, disease of the week, the glass ceiling, a haunted past, a dead parent, front office arrogance, sports as commerce, and misplaced high school hubris - and we haven't even mentioned the implied pedophilia, the undiscovered prospect, and a burgeoning romance. At times, it seems as if way too much is going on, requiring longtime first assistant director, first time feature filmmaker (and Friend of Eastwood) Robert Lorenz to swing wildly for the outfield. Most of the time, he barely makes it to the cheap seats.

That's because Trouble with the Curve doesn't do enough with its inside baseball business. This is the anti-Moneyball movie, a sports film where the ins and outs of same are kept closed off and clandestine. Of course, some of this is necessary in order to make the last act reveal of Gus' decision work, but we sure could use more of such likeable lingo and jargon. Even worse, the rest of Eastwood's curmudgeonly clan, made up of recognizable character actors who barely get names, let alone quality screen time, don't add to our understanding. They're just a bunch of old farts who make outrageous claims about today's young generation while complaining about the metaphysical kids on their front yard. No insight into what they are looking for. No description of what a scout can offer in a world run by the Internet and computer spreadsheets.

In fact, this is a movie about confrontation instead of communication. When Gus feels threatened, he tends to lash out - even if it's at a coffee table. We spend the entire film waiting for the moment when he "comes clean" to his daughter, explaining his absentee actions for the intervening years. Yet there's never the basic conversation about the massive age difference. Mickey is 33. Gus is an inferred octogenarian. This means he didn't have her until he was in his 50s, a fact that never is discussed or dissected. Similarly, we see the grave of Gus' wife, and it appears she died very young. So, when did she meet up with our hero. Did the May-December nature of their romance doom their child? Who knows.

Similarly, Timberlake's ex-pitcher has a lot of love for Gus, especially since he played an important role in starting (and stymieing) his career. Yet we never get that moment of real mutual recognition or rejection. In fact, when people aren't pontificating without interaction, they're laying on the exposition. Take Mickey's attempt at making partner. We basically learn everything we need to know...over and over again. She's worked hard. A competing attorney is a brown nosing jerk. Her boyfriend views everything in terms of acquisitions and mergers (where have we heard THAT before) and the male members of the committee are one step away from 'barefoot and pregnant' chauvinism. This isn't characterization. It's a series of complaints.

And frankly, we don't care. Mickey's career aspirations are a red herring in a film filled with such cinematic fish. Johnny's possible shot at the announcer's booth? The reason Gus has haunted memories about a galloping horse? The "get the old man" strategy of Lillard and his ilk? All misdirection, elements meant to add depth but instead sidetrack the film from its (former) America's past time patina. Trouble with the Curve tries to be the Field of Dreams of 2012 athletics. It argues for the old school - in this case, the really old school - vs. the viability of playing the statistical percentages and yet never really reaches the kind of simplistic Zen such an argument offers. At the very least, it's an interesting starring vehicle for an A-lister not afraid to show his age. On the other hand, Trouble with the Curve could have been so much better had it simply stuck to the baseball basics. Everything else becomes unearned errors.

6

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image