Have you ever had the experience of flipping through the 10,000 channels available on cable or satellite in an effort to find something worth watching when suddenly a movie you have seen numerous times fills the screen? But you like this film so well that whether you’ve caught it at the beginning, the middle or the end, you will watch it until it’s over.
Just in case you are curious, some of the films I list in this category are “Finding Forrester,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” “The Sting,” “Dirty Dancing” (Yes, I admit it.), “The Green Mile,” “Scent of a Woman,” and “A Few Good Men.” I could name many more, but you get the idea. These are not necessarily films that received rave reviews from critics, but they are just movies we never grow tired of watching.
This past weekend I found another one for my list when it finally hits the small screen. If you check out the Metacritc score for “Trouble With the Curve,” you will see it received an average score of 58 out of a possible 100 based upon the reviews of 37 famous critics. Now I try to avoid reading any reviews before I write my own, but I will bet that some of the learned scribes who gave it a low score will apply such adjectives as “predictable,” “formulaic,” “trite,” “melodramatic,” “unoriginal” to it.
And I would agree with them, but so what? Lots of movies have these characteristics, but that doesn’t mean they are bad. It just means that the people who make their living writing about movies usually feel obligated to rip to shreds films that artsy enough for them. Hell, I think “Road House” is an awesome movie, and I don’t give a damn if it’s not on the intellectual level of a Shakespearean production. (I also like those by the way.)
Therefore, I am telling you “Trouble with the Curve” is one of the most enjoyable films I have seen all summer, and its stars – Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, and Justin Timberlake – are nothing short of superb in it. I didn’t want to see this film end, and if I had had the time, I could have sat through it again on the spot.
Gus Lobel (Eastwood) is a legendary scout for the Atlanta Braves, but he is battling the ravages of old age, and he has only three months left on his current contract. To make matters even worse, his eyesight is failing, which of course is the worst thing that can happen to a baseball scout.
Pete Klein (John Goodman) is Gus’s boss, colleague, and good friend, and as Gus prepares to leave for North Carolina to scout a hotshot hitter named Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill), Pete is concerned for the old man’s welfare. In an attempt to make sure Gus has a safe trip, Pete goes to see Gus’s daughter, Mickey (Adams), a brilliant attorney hovering on the brink of partnership with her prestigious firm.
The relationship between Gus and Mickey is a strained one to say the least because after the death of his wife and Mickey’s mother, he sent his daughter to live with an uncle and later to boarding school. Although he thought he was doing what was best for Mickey, she deeply resents his treatment of her. Now that she is grown up and established as a successful lawyer, Mickey and her father have arrived at a tenuous truce.
Although Mickey is in the middle of a huge case that could cement her partnership, she finally decides to take a few days off and follow Gus to North Carolina even though she knows her grumpy father probably will resent her presence.
Her perception of the whole situation is spot on because shortly after her arrival, Gus says, “I don’t need your help. I don’t know why you just don’t go home.
And Mickey replies, “Because I feel this dysfunctional sense of responsibility to make sure that you’re okay.”
In North Carolina, Gus crosses paths with Johnny Flanagan (Timberlake), a former pitcher who had a great fastball before he blew his arm out. Years ago Gus had scouted Johnny, who now is working as a scout for the Boston Red Sox and who also is interested in Gentry.
Although everyone seems to think Gentry is the next Babe Ruth, only Gus doubts his talent with a bat, and now he must convince the bigwigs with the Atlanta Braves to pass on him as a first-round draft choice. In the process, his relationship with Mickey takes a new turn, and she learns something important about her life and her father’s part in it.
At one point in the film, Gus attempts to justify the decisions he made about Mickey by saying, “I just didn’t want you to have a life in the cheap seats, that’s all.”
But her reply puts things in perspective for him: “They weren’t the cheap seats. Spending every waking moment with my dad watching baseball, those were the best seats in the house.”
From its opening scene until the closing credits, “Trouble with the Curve” is a totally enjoyable and entertaining film. It’s the kind of movie critics love to hate because it offers nothing particularly original, and there’s never any mystery about where it’s going. BUT the virtually perfect chemistry between Eastwood and Adams makes the film a pure joy throughout. In the production notes, Adams offered some interesting insight into Gus and Mickey.
“Mickey and Gus have a lot in common. They’re two people who focus on their work to keep from having to focus on anything else. She learned from the best; she keeps really busy so that she doesn’t have to explore the deeper, emotional side of herself. Daughters always want the approval of their fathers. So, naturally, Mickey wants Gus’s attention; she wants him to be proud of her, but he, like many dads, has a hard time conveying that. Over time, she’s built up a wall, and things between them have become contentious, to say the least.”
Also in the production notes, Eastwood provided a perceptive analysis of Gus.
“He doesn’t want anybody to help him, because he equates that with them feeling sorry for him, which he can’t stand. He especially doesn’t want Mickey there because he doesn’t think it’s a healthy atmosphere for a young woman, even though she was around it a lot when she was growing up and knows the game very well. He’s also afraid she’ll catch on to what’s really wrong with him.”
As he did in his last film “Gran Torino,” Eastwood elevates the portrayal of a curmudgeon to new heights. His portrayal of Gus as a proud man grappling with the twilight of his life is by turns humorous and heart wrenching. Of course what makes Eastwood such a masterful actor is his ability to become a character rather than just playing the part. The guy is just amazing.
And Adams’ portrayal of Mickey is nothing short of perfection. Mickey’s tumultuous relationship with her father has had a predictably adverse effect on her life, and Adams conveys her character’s confusion and heartache beautifully. Whether she’s playing opposite Eastwood or Timberlake, Adams is equally poised portraying either the spurned daughter or the potential love interest.
Additionally, both Goodman and Timberlake turn in fine supporting performances, and newcomer Massingill is sufficiently dislikeable as the arrogant Gentry, who disdainfully refers to one of the vendors at the baseball game as “Peanut Boy.”
“Trouble with the Curve” probably never will contend for any major awards, but because it achieves a great blend of humor and drama and because it offers a terrific story about the relationship between a father and daughter and because it provides excellent entertainment unmarred by special effects, blood, violence, car chases, and explosions, this movie receives the elusive 10. And all of those snobs who gave it negative reviews have simply struck out.