Trouble With The Curve, the directorial debut of Robert Lorenz, is almost the exact opposite of Bennett Miller’s Moneyball. One is a bold story about a man who identifies a broken system and tries to break through the status quo by introducing a new approach to baseball scouting using statistics, algorithms and technology. The other is about a veteran scout who outright rejects any kind of new system or ideas in favor of the aforementioned status quo. But the most important difference between the baseball dramas is that one is a compelling, well-made movie with something to say, while the other is as fresh as a twelfth inning ballpark hot dog and half as entertaining.
The problems start with the script. Written by Robert Brown, the story follows Gus (Clint Eastwood), an Atlanta Braves scout who discovers he is losing his eyesight and goes on what could possibly be his last scouting trip. Joining him is his lawyer daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), not only to make sure that he’s alright, but to also try and bond with him and get some answers to lifelong questions. It’s a too-familiar father-daughter story, but the issues run much deeper than that. The characters are all clichés – from Mickey being the standard workaholic, emotionally unavailable female lead to Justin Timberlake’s Johnny, a young, hot-shot, up-and-coming scout who looks to Gus as a mentor and takes a romantic interest in his daughter – and their motivations and actions often don’t make sense (for example, Gus goes to see a doctor when he first has trouble seeing and then ignores the doctor's advice to see a specialist because he doesn't trust doctors). The antagonists – namely the computer-centric younger scout played by Matthew Lillard and endorsement deal-obsessed player (Joe Massingill) that Gus travels to look at – are cartoonishly douchey; the third act turn is foreshadowed to death; there are two dance sequences written within five minutes of each other…the list just keeps going.
While Adams does manage to put in a solid and honest performance, digging deep to find emotional moments for her rote character, the script, direction and editing actually makes you worry about the talented cast. There’s a scene early in the film where John Goodman, who plays Gus’ pal and colleague, visits his friend’s home for a chat and the dialogue is as atonal as a middle school play. Given Eastwood’s well-known directorial habit of rarely doing more than two or three takes of any shot, it’s not hard to imagine that Lorenz, who long served as Eastwood’s first assistant director, took the same approach. Hopefully the lesson he’ll take into his next project will be to shoot a few more for safety.
The film is the first that Eastwood has acted in since 2008’s Gran Torino, and watching it you wish that he had stayed behind the scenes. Gus gives him absolutely nothing to do other than sit around looking grumpy, yell at people and complain about the younger generation and his declining health – you know, the stereotypical grandpa. The audience is meant to take him as a troubled, sad old man, but he’s so disgruntled and mean that it’s hard to give him any sympathy. Eastwood is a true film legend and known for being such a man’s man, and nobody wants to see an icon like him as a troubled, sad, old man. He used to be The Man With No Name, Dirty Harry Callahan and Josey Wales, but now he’s having trouble urinating due to an inflamed prostate (30 seconds after the title card, no less) and awkwardly warbling “You Are My Sunshine” to his wife’s gravestone. And as bad as that sounds reading it, it’s even worse on the big screen.
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