Rigid first half forgotten by solid conclusion in “Trouble with the Curve”

There’s a moment in the early stages of “Trouble with the Curve” when Gus (Clint Eastwood), a revered baseball scout beginning to lose his eye sight, stands up to leave a baseball game he was scouting well before its conclusion because he’s “seen enough”. In reality he wasn’t able to see anything and just doesn’t want his scouting brethren sitting around him to know that he’s losing his eye sight.

You see the profession of scouting is as much about clandestinity and lies as it is about finding elite young baseball talent.

As you watch Eastwood portray Gus, Amy Adams portray his estranged 33-year-old daughter and Justin Timberlake try to play a broken down former major league pitcher turned Boston Red Sox scout, it’s hard to believe any of it.

You don’t see Gus taking copious notes on any players as to why he is or isn’t a player that the Atlanta Braves should be interested in. You don’t see him watching pre-game batting practice, talking to players, coaches or their families to get an understanding of a kid or talking to the kid himself. You just don’t see him doing anything a baseball
scout has to do so it’s hard to believe that Eastwood is a legendary scout that cares about that profession. There’s more Dirty Harry in Gus than there is Gus.

And Adams as Gus’ daughter, Mickey (named for Mickey Mantle of course), seems out of her comfort zone as an over-achieving young attorney trying to make partner. Mickey visits her father despite having a critical case to prepare for when Pete Klein (John Goodman) visits to inform her about the concerns he has of his employee and long-time friend.

She comes because she knows baseball after spending so much time around her dad, thinks she can help him scout a big-time player the Braves are hoping to draft with their top pick (very important stuff) and thus not lose his job by screwing it up. But she also wants to resolve issues
between them that have gone un-discussed for years.

In the process, she loses grip on the life she worked so hard to build while gaining an understanding about just what she really wanted that life to be.

She meets Johnny (Justin Timberlake) who is scouting the same player as Gus for the Red Sox who have the No. 1 overall pick and slowly but surely starts to open up.

It takes awhile, just like this film, but when she finally does, Adams and Timberlake find a comfort zone together that make the second half of this film worth watching.

There are a number of editing issues as well (there’s only one real baseball player in this film and it’s the Hispanic teenager playing the motel owner’s son) that make the baseball parts of this film more unbelievable and acting performances that feel contrived (has Matthew Lillard ever been believable in anything?) that drag the film down, but the second half has poignant moments that lead to a nice conclusion that make it worth your while.

Just don’t expect to see anything Academy Award worthy out of this big-name cast.

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