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The Independent Critic

STARRING
Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, John Goodman, Robert Patrick, Justin Timberlake, Matthew Lillard
DIRECTED BY
Robert Lorenz
SCREENPLAY
Randy Brown
MPAA RATING
Rated PG-13
RUNNING TIME
111 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
Warner Brothers
DVD EXTRAS
Two featurettes, totally roughly ten minutes (disappointing!).
 "Trouble With the Curve" Not Quite a Home Run 
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Despite the fact that virtually every note that is played in Trouble with the Curve is wholly predictable, Clint Eastwood and Amy Adams make for a winning combination and the film itself is as enjoyable as it is predictable.

Eastwood may not make everyone in America forget his infamous RNC monologue with his performance here, but his performance here definitely should remind most of America why we tend to forgive the actor his occasional eccentricities. This is the Eastwood that America has grown to love as of late, with Eastwood portraying sort of the anti-Billy Beane, the Oakland A's general manager who was portrayed by Brad Pitt in the acclaimed Moneyball. In Moneyball, the sabermetric approach to assembling a baseball team was front and center and technology was favored over instinct. In Trouble with the Curve, Eastwood plays Gus Lobel, an old-school baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves who is within three months of the end of his contract and hasn't landed a decent recruit in a few years. It doesn't help help that an up-and-coming baseball exec (Matthew Lillard) with a penchant for computer stats is all hellbent on getting Gus tossed out when his contract is up if not sooner.

Gus knows that he's on borrowed time as a scout, but baseball is all he's really ever known as evidenced by his long estranged daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), a high-powered lawyer already up for partner in her law firm despite only being in her early 30's.

The thing is that Mickey, despite resisting it with every fiber of her being, would likely trade it all just to figure out a way to connect with her father.

Gus is given one last shot at landing a prized recruit, but with his vision starting to fail it's a long shot at best. Determined to help his longtime buddy succeed, Braves exec Pete Klein (John Goodman) convinces Mickey to hit the road with her father.

There's a pretty good chance you're going to know how the story goes from there.

Fortunately, even with a remarkably predictable story, Trouble with the Curve is a feel good, heartwarming story that works beautifully because both Eastwood and Adams are perfectly cast as a father and daughter who desperately love each other but haven't a clue how to show it.

Eastwood's last film performance, which I seem to recall hearing was going to be his last film performance, was in his own acclaimed Gran Torino, with Eastwood playing a feisty old codger taking back neighborhood. This time around, Eastwood's a feisty old codger fighting off the devastating effects of aging and determined to put gut instinct back into baseball. Eastwood is directed here by frequent collaborator Robert Lorenz, who has been a producer on Eastwood's last twelve films and now gives Eastwood his first acting appearance under another director since 1993's In the Line of Fire.

Truthfully, Trouble with the Curve would likely have been a better film had Eastwood directed, with some of Lorenz's directorial choices borderline amateurish and too histrionic for an Eastwood film. Fortunately, Lorenz is gifted with a terrific cast and even at 82 there's simply no denying that Eastwood's still got it going on. Amy Adams, one of the screen's most enjoyable actresses since her breakthrough performance in Junebug, seems to bring both an energy and an emotional depth to Eastwood's performance and the scenes where they are together far transcend the film's formulaic script.

I'd be hard-pressed to call Adams' performance here a masterpiece, but given the material she has to work with it's a pretty amazing performance filled with vim and vigor and healthy doses of heart and humor. Justin Timberlake is also here in one of his more satisfying performances as Johnny Flanagan, a former discovery of Gus's whose arm blew out and left him hoping for an eventual career in broadcasting. It's more than a little predictable that Johnny and Mickey will take a shine to one another, but how they do so feels right anyway. Timberlake isn't called upon to do a whole lot here other than exude a certain shattered confidence with "guy next door" qualities. Let's face it, whether you love or hate his music, Timberlake has always projected that sort of quality that makes you think you'd have a chance of hanging out with him on a Saturday night. That quality works wonders for him here, and Timberlake does a terrific job of bringing out Johnny's multiple layers.

Among the supporting players, John Goodman is satisfying as always while Matthew Lillard is so smarmy you can't help but want to beat the crap out of him or at least hope that Gus can recruit the crap out of him. As the prized recruit of whom Gus is increasingly leery, Joe Massingill is a hoot.

Trouble with the Curve may not have been a huge stretch for anyone in its cast, but sometimes it's rather nice just to sit back and enjoy a fine film with familiar faces. If you love Eastwood, you'll love this film. If you love Adams, you'll love this film. If you love baseball, you'll love this film.

Heck, if you love film, there's a pretty darn good chance you're really going to enjoy Trouble with the Curve.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
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