No curveballs in ‘Trouble with the Curve’

Carljoe Javier
Clint Eastwood stars as an ailing baseball scout who rediscovers a bond with his daughter

Justin Timberlake and Amy Adams star with Clint Eastwood in 'Trouble with the Curve.' Image from the movie's Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – The Clint Eastwood vehicle Trouble with the Curve is being touted as the anti-Moneyball and it’s pretty easy to see why:

It employs a numbers-crunching douchebag played by Matthew Lillard who prefers “his programs,” belittling Clint Eastwood’s aging scout Gus and his reliance on intuition and experience.

Sure, you’ve got the seeds of that conflict and discourse here, but that is far from what the movie is about.

It is merely an opening pitch, but far from being the real game.

Clint Eastwood plays Amy Adams' father Gus in 'Trouble with the Curve.' Image from the movie's Facebook page

In fact, it’s a rather deceptive ploy. Whereas both book and film for Moneyball tried to illustrate for us the adoption of sabermetrics through experience of a season with the Oakland A’s, Trouble with the Curve has no plans of even engaging that discipline. It serves as a bad boogeyman that exists, but that it cannot really be bothered with.

In fact, the film takes a similar stance as its aging protagonists that those programs are well and good; but the old folks, they know something that your newfangled computers don’t. This is all to say that if you are looking for a movie that examines the importance or power of baseball talent scouting in a critical manner, then this movie ain’t it.

It shows scouting as a kind of intuitive, magical, heartfelt thing. This flick then skirts the issue altogether, never looking at things in a technical way.

So what is it really looking at then, if not the baseball? It’s looking at the relationships that emerge as Gus struggles to stay relevant. In this sense, everything is terribly predictable. All the pieces of the puzzle are placed in predictable ways, events move forward in a predictable manner, and outcomes are, well, predictable as well. 

Image from the movie's Facebook page

Gus is old with his contract nearing its end. Not only that, but his eyes are going and he can hardly see the game anymore. Of course he’s hiding it from his bosses, because he still wants to keep doing his job, and the douchey computer nerds would gut him if they found out.

Coming to help him is his daughter Mickey, played by the always charming Amy Adams. Gus and Mickey have an extremely conflicted relationship. Gus is cut in the macho mold of distance and stoicism, speaking in grunts and looks. Mickey is dealing with feelings of abandonment, and she pushes hard to get through to Gus.

All this while Mickey is vying for a partnership at the law firm that she works for. (We know where all this is going right? Gus and his eyes, family drama and the need for closure, career vs. family, etc etc) 

Watch the trailer of ‘The Trouble with Curve’ here:

Throw in a little spice with Justin Timberlake’s Johnny, a ballplayer Gus once scouted. Gus treats him like a son and of course there’s a spark between Johnny and Mickey. And for the most part even though the romance between the two is written pretty thin and predictable, the actors’ charms win us over and get us to go along with it. 

The movie follows these 3 as they scout a brash assh*le of a prospect. He’s only ever shown being terrible, and in that sense too you can predict his comeuppance.

And here I go again with the word “predictable.”

Image from the movie's Facebook page

That’s really what we have to contend with here. Even though this movie is not directed by Eastwood, it exhibits his penchant for the saccharine. For all the macho posturing, for its subject matter, and its attempt to hold on to old school values, it dips freely into the sugar and cheese.

It is unabashed when it goes into dramatic modes. And though one feels that it was a little underwritten, that it deserved some more movement and tension on the writing end. The actors give such rich performances that the tension between them is palpable.

There is affability and love, there is admiration and there is disappointment. 

Image from the movie's Facebook page

For all my objections to certain things here, I find myself still liking the film. It holds to old values in its filmmaking and in its discourse. Hard work, perseverance, buttoning your lip and doing the grunt work, enduring, that’s all stuff that I can relate to, stuff that I can support even though it might sound dated or old fashioned (and so I guess is my feeling for this movie that can seem dated and old fashioned). 

But here’s the thing about old-fashioned: We can also see it as classic or vintage, and that’s what we get here.

In lieu of numbers and innovative filmmaking, we get simple set-ups and strong acting. We get human conflicts that will tug at our heartstrings. There were many moments of tension, and the best of them between Eastwood and Adams, which truly did hit great emotional notes.

Image from the movie's Facebook page

There is of course a revelation to explain the emotional distance that Gus placed between him and Mickey when she was a child, and this scene is charged and explosive like an action scene would be. And after it, a line delivery by the grizzled Eastwood which would break anyone’s heart.

It’s moments like these that Trouble with the Curve is worth watching for.

And despite the cheesiness or the corniness that it dips into, it earns those big emotional moments, makes them true and makes them resonate. –

The Trouble with Curve’ is now screening in Philippine theaters.

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