Gus (Clint Eastwood) is a baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves. Gus is also very, very old. His eyesight is deteriorating and this season may be his last before finally settling into retirement and grumpily arguing with his penis full-time (it’s something he does).
Gus has been in the scouting game a long time and doesn’t believe in those interweb machines to calculate stats and evaluate prospects, instead he relies on a feeling, a sound, and good old-fashioned intuition.
“Get off my lawn, Jonah Hill.”
While on assignment to check out a promising, but extremely cocky high school player Bo Gentry (the tragically surnamed Joe Massingill) Gus’s manager and longtime friend Pete (John Goodman in his 56th film appearance this year) calls upon Gus’s daughter Mickey (the always fantastic Amy Adams) to keep an eye on her father and help him with the scouting process. This couldn’t happen at a worse time for Mickey as she’s finally up for the big promotion that she’s been working toward for years to partner at her law firm. Still, though her relationship with her father has been strained since the death of her mother, Mickey agrees and joins old Gus in North Carolina, knowing that she’s potentially putting her promotion on the line.
Also checking out Bo Gentry is former Braves pitcher-turned-Boston-Red-Sox-scout-who-really-wants-to-be-broadcaster-someday, Johnny Flanagan (Justin Timberlake), once scouted by Gus himself, who takes an instant liking to emotionally unavailable Mickey.
Eastwood came out of acting retirement to reprise his now-patented Crotchety Old Man Who Talks Like Christian Bale’s Batman™ character. It works well in the role of Gus, and this variation is much more likable than the one we saw in Gran Torino. (By the way, I HATED Gran Torino.)
The character and Clint Eastwood, the person, seem to have become synonymous in recent years, of course now more than ever with the recent “Chairgate” incident. Clint could easily take the Joaquin Phoenix route and say his appearance at the Republican National Convention was an in-character promotion for this movie and most people would buy it as a genius marketing move.
All joking aside, I really hope the whole RNC thing doesn’t detract theatergoers from checking out this movie because Eastwood does deliver a fine performance here. Let’s not forget, the man is 82 years old.
Okay, I guess it’s not too hard to forget.
Another thing I hope does not deter audiences is that this is a “baseball movie.” Because it really isn’t. Baseball provides the background for the story, but it isn’t the story. The primary focus of the film is on Gus’s relationship with Mickey. Eastwood and Adams complement and play off each other expertly. These are two actors at the top of their games, despite being in completely different stages of their careers. It’s a bit reminiscent of the chemistry Eastwood had with Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby…
…but without the depressing as hell paralysis and assisted suicide stuff.
Justin Timberlake deserves as much credit as Eastwood and Adams. His character is the warmth of the film and provides a nice balance to grumpy Gus and Mickey’s steeliness. I’ve really come to respect and be a fan of Timberlake as an actor, he’s consistently proving himself to be a force to be reckoned with, equally talented in drama as he is in comedy. Speaking of, he gets some of the funniest lines in the film. I dare you not to be charmed by him.
“Well I’ll be damned son, you are bringing the sexy back.”
The supporting cast is pretty great too. John Goodman, Robert Patrick, and Matthew Lillard in particular all deliver walk-off home runs. (I feel like I had to include at least one baseball reference in this review).
Still every time I see Matthew Lillard onscreen I get this urge to yell “IT’S A SCREAM BABY!” and claim Tourette’s.
The last twenty minutes or so ties up all the loose ends perfectly… a little too perfectly. It’s extremely contrived, forced, and predictable. Still, I couldn’t help but eat it up, even knowing full well I was being played. I wasn’t the only one. The audience was cheering and applauding during the climactic showdown between Gentry and a rival prospect. What are you gonna do? Sometimes you just gotta give in to the cheese.
The strong performances and appeal of the cast elevate the material to make Trouble With the Curve a worthwhile way to spend a couple hours. Yes, it’s conventional, trite, at times even groaningly schmaltzy, but somehow, it all works. This is a much better movie than it should have been.
Take a Drink: when Gus beats up a piece of furniture (HINT: It’s NOT a chair)
Take a Drink: every time Mickey checks her cell phone.
Take a Drink: every time a shot is from Gus’s point of view and it’s blurry. (NOTE: If the whole movie is blurry, STOP DRINKING-it’s not the movie.)
Take a Drink: every time Matthew Lillard’s character says something douchey.
Take a Drink: every time Bo Gentry says something douchey.
Do a Shot: whenever you cheer, cry, or smile in spite of the fact that you are aware you’re being manipulated.