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Review: Trouble with the Curve (2012)

Trouble with the Curve (2012)

Directed by: Robert Lorenz

Premise: An aging baseball scout (Clint Eastwood) is aided by his estranged daughter (Amy Adams).

What Works: Trouble with the Curve is a nice movie and it is best appreciated for its performances. All three lead actors are in their comfort zones and although no one is really stretching here they are steady players who fulfill the requirements of their roles. Clint Eastwood plays the lead and he is in typical Eastwood fashion as a gruff old man. Amy Adams plays his daughter, an up and coming attorney, and Adams is the highlight of the film as the script gives her the most to do and she manages to share the frame with Eastwood without being drowned out by his presence. The father-daughter relationship has a lot of reality to it although less due to the writing and more a result of Eastwood and Adams’ talents and they play their scenes well. The romance between Adams and Justin Timberlake’s characters is also enjoyable, at least in parts. Like Eastwood and Adams, Timberlake has been cast to type as likable boyfriend material and the courtship between the two is perfunctory but generally convincing. What the script of Trouble with the Curve lacks in originality it mostly makes up for in structure. The story smartly crisscrosses the politics of Adams’ law firm with the politics of the baseball club house and that makes for some parallel action that draws father and daughter together. Trouble with the Curve also makes for an interesting counter to 2011’s Moneyball. Where that film was about using statistics in order to upend the system, Trouble with the Curve is about the human elements of baseball and this picture plays like a conservative but humanistic response to last year’s film.

What Doesn’t: The term “popcorn movie” refers to pictures that satisfy the audience without being demanding. The “popcorn” label is usually associated with light, spectacle-driven action films like The Avengers and Raiders of the Lost Ark but it can be applied to other genres as well, and Trouble with the Curve is a popcorn drama. This means that the film will be pleasant enough but it is not deeply satisfying.  The film has two primary plotlines: the reconciliation between father and daughter and the daughter’s blooming love affair with a young baseball scout. The skill of the actors carries what are otherwise bland stories. The plotting is predictable and the filmmakers follow rigid narrative structures. This is the kind of movie in which viewers will immediately recognize what will happen between Eastwood, Adams, and Timberlake and the film does nothing to even hint at other possibilities.  Because the picture follows the boiler plates for a father-daughter bonding story and a romance, the filmmakers kill any possibility of tension but they also undermine the integrity of the movie. Trouble with the Curve presents itself as a story about escaping the sterility of statistics and marketing and embracing the virtues of getting down in the dirt of life but the film is entirely built on calculated and focus grouped story formulas. Trouble with the Curve gets off to a solid start but once the three lead characters are in place the filmmakers do not do much with them and the story keeps recycling the same scene over and over again, with Adams’ character trying to help her father, Eastwood growling that he doesn’t need assistance, and Timberlake making romantic passes in the aftermath. Instead of coming together, the characters and subplots become increasingly fractured. Throughout the body of the story Trouble with the Curve is not moving toward a happy ending but the filmmakers contort the finale into one anyway and it is a preposterous conclusion that feels false.  

Bottom Line: Trouble with the Curve is enjoyable as a date movie. In many respects it is a Hallmark movie with A-list actors but the performances are enjoyable enough to warrant the film a mild recommendation.

Episode: #407 (September 30, 2012)