I guess I’m a little bit confused. After being told up one side and down the other to beware Robert Lorenz’s “Trouble with the Curve,” I found myself liking it just fine. It’s a bit unruly in spots and amateurly conceived in others, but never to detriment. And even Clint Eastwood’s grizzled performance, threatening to make good on the promise of “Gran Torino” (i.e. that he’ll be in the self-parody business from here on out) didn’t strike the sour chord I expected it to.
Then as the movie went along, I realized the framing — my framing — was all wrong. This isn’t Clint Eastwood’s movie. This is Amy Adams’s movie. And she’s great. Coupled with “The Master,” her work here further shows a dynamic range for the actress, who by the way landed three Oscar nominations in just six years, for those keeping score at home. And if you’re still not convinced, have a look at “On the Road,” where she shows up out of nowhere and gives a unique if brief take opposite Viggo Mortensen.
In Lorenz’s film, Adams stars as Mickey (you can probably guess the reference), a young professional doing a pretty good job of keeping distance between herself and the potential suitors in her life. There’s a reason, of course, and that’s the sense of abandonment she took away from her early life with a single father, Gus (Eastwood), who spent most of his time on the road scouting for Major League Baseball. The script (from writer Randy Brown) sets her up on a scouting trip that doubles as a therapy session and, along the way, lessons are learned, breakthroughs are made and a valid enough theme is woven throughout.
One thing the script does so well is tell a few parallel stories with increasing confidence. A colleague after this afternoon’s screening noted the classical nature of this, which is a good point. You don’t see it often (in this case, Gus and Mickey’s story is told against the backdrop of a discovery yarn about a young up-and-coming high school player), but there’s also the added virtue of a love story that actually works quite nicely.
And that’s where Justin Timberlake comes in. I bought him fully as a fellow scout of Gus’s (formerly scouted himself, with echoes of “Moneyball”) with eyes for Mickey, Mr. Right at the wrong time. But that’s another strand of the narrative that gets explored and, I would say, rather fully.
Not to go there with the Gene Shalit terminology, but I while “Trouble with the Curve” isn’t a home run, it’s a solid double, at the very least. Its ambitions are in check and its limits are known, but it finds its rhythm and it tells its story. I don’t mean to damn with faint praise but I don’t want to oversell it either. I was just charmed by what it wanted to get across, I guess.
What I’m curious about, however, is whether it’s Academy material. The sight-unseen notion has been a play for Eastwood in Best Actor, but that’s a mirage. Again, the story of the film is Adams, and I think the narrative will speak to older members who know what it’s like to lose touch and shoulder the burden of knowing more about life than their children. As well, it should spark for younger members all too familiar with how maddening communication breakdowns with parents can be at crucial times.
The whole thing just works. It might be hokey in spots, it might be conventional (it will surely be a commercial success), it might even be a shade treacly. But it’s not shallow, and it’s not lazy. And mist significantly, it sports another great performance from a consistently top-notch actress.
“Trouble with the Curve” opens September 21.