Just like a minor league ball player awaiting his chance to make it to the big leagues, first time director Robert Lorenz has been preparing for this opportunity his whole life. Constantly playing second fiddle to Clint Eastwood as the "Assistant Director" on hits such as Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River and The Bridges of Madison County, Lorentz has finally been given his chance and he'll step up to the plate with this year's drama Trouble with the Curve.
Trouble with the Curve follows Gus Lobel (played by Eastwood), an elderly baseball scout in the twilight of his career. In an age where computers and statistics have taken over the analysis of ballplayers, Gus is given one last shot by his employer, the Atlanta Braves, to scout this year's most highly touted prospect. But with an expiring contract and a recent diagnosis of glaucoma, Gus' eyes may not be good enough to help him keep his job. With the aid of his somewhat distant daughter Mickey (played by Adams) and a former ballplayer turned scout Johnny Flanagan (played by Timberlake), Gus and the pair of youngsters must learn to hit any pitch that life throws their way.
Trouble with the Curve is a melodramatic piece that fails to live up to the legendary status of a big named star like Clint Eastwood. Taking the favorable position of scouting over the newly installed ideas of saber-metrics within professional baseball, Trouble with the Curve sets itself up as the anti-Moneyball. Claiming that a computer can't measure instincts and countless other undervalued variables, the film places a central focus on the ability to see beyond the game. And while avid baseball fans like myself can find a modest level of enjoyment by having the sport as a backdrop to the film's larger story, Trouble with the Curve tip-toes around confronting its major conflict for far too long. Once the big secret behind the broken down relationship between Gus and Mickey is finally revealed, it ends up feeling like an "I've waited all this time for that?" moment. But perhaps the feature's biggest saving grace comes in the form of Justin Timberlake. The singer turned actor has made a natural transformation to the big screen and his success only continues. At times, Timberlake's character Johnny Flanagan appears to be the only reasonable person in the movie. Playing a former phenom who could light up the radar gun with a triple digit fastball, Timberlake portrays Flanagan with an honest sense of humility. Flanagan makes his way into scouting after a devastating injury ends his career, and the audience easily connects with the character's admitted failure and quest for a new beginning. Without the aid of Timberlake and his multi-dimensional character, Trouble with the Curve would fall far into the abyss of mediocrity.
One of the most shocking revelations in Trouble with the Curve is the stunning real life parallel between Clint Eastwood and his onscreen character of Gus Lobel. Lobel is an aging man being forced out of his profession for a lack of fresh perspective. And ironically speaking, Eastwood's performance picks up exactly where his Walt Kowalski character from Gran Torino left off. Offering nothing new to the curmudgeony role he perfected so well in 2008, Eastwood proves to be a major disappointment in the film. Sure his light-hearted old fogey jokes will garner a few laughs, but they all manage to feel slightly recycled. On the other hand, Oscar nominee Amy Adams delivers another stellar performance. But despite her valiant efforts, director Robert Lorenz and screenwriter Randy Brown ultimately mishandle her story. Once the audience buys into her romantic escapades with the charming Johnny Flanagan, they force a conflict into the film that is never seemingly resolved. However, when we're given an unexplained and unbelievable fairy-tale ending, the sentiment becomes almost sickening.
Trouble with the Curve is far from the Oscar-filled hopeful that some early indicators believed it could be. And although the film is massively flawed and unrealistic, Trouble with the Curve is a feel good movie about the greatest game on earth ... so how bad can it be? There are definitely some noticeable lulls throughout the movie, but the budding romance and regularly calculated jokes do their intended job. As a result, Trouble with the Curve is an ever-so-slightly above average drama that you don't have to rush to theatres to see.