Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars
If you don’t count his spot-on impression of Grandpa Simpson at this past months’ Republican National Convention, it’s been four years since Clint Eastwood has appeared on screen. It’s also been almost twenty years since he worked for another director besides himself. What could have brought Clint back for this amazing twin surprise? Loyalty. Director Lorenz has worked for Eastwood for almost two decades, serving as everything from assistant director to producer. Now, with “Trouble with the Curve,” he gets to show Eastwood everything he’s learned.
Gus Lobel (Eastwood) is a baseball scout. Though we’re told he’s signed every great Atlanta Brave from Rico Carty to Dale Murphy to Chipper Jones, we’re also aware that he’s much older than the other scouts he sits with as he travels North Carolina watching high school baseball and looking for the next great player. Gus is baseball through and though. He continues to speak with his late wife during visits to the cemetery (her head stone reads: “May the Lord Grant You Extra Innings.” His daughter (Adams) is a lawyer with the first name of Mickey. As in Mantle. Gus realizes that his eyesight is getting worse and, upon the request of the Braves, finds himself watching THE NEXT BIG THING with Mickey at his side and a rival agent and former pitcher (Timberlake) with eyes for both the ball player and Mickey.
A great companion piece to last year’s “Moneyball,” “Trouble with the Curve” is an earnest film whose major drawback is that it’s ending is telegraphed to the audience less than 30 minutes after the film starts. That being said, if you don’t spend a lot of time analyzing things it’s an enjoyable debut project for director Lorenz, thanks in great part to a committed cast. Eastwood’s Gus could be a cousin to “Gran Torino” senior citizen Walt. Gruff on the outside but with a soft, syrupy middle, Gus is content with his life on the road. Adams shines as Mickey, who slowly resumes the love for the game her father never knew existed while at the same time juggling an important legal presentation she must present in order to make partner at her firm. Timberlake continues to do solid work as a supporting character, continually learning what makes both Gus and Mickey tick. Also notable are John Goodman as Gus’ closest front office friend, Matthew Lillard and Robert Patrick as Braves execs and George Wyner and Bob Gunton as the leaders of Mickey’s firm.
Director Lorenz obviously studied Eastwood well on previous sets. His direction is simple and fluid, concentrating more on character than action. He also manages to catch brilliant glimpses of the North Carolina countryside as well as the sounds of baseball being played for fun.