Clint Eastwood’s latest movie Trouble with the Curve is neither as daring as the last time he was onscreen in Gran Torino nor as ambitious as his directorial take on the afterlife in Hereafter or politics in J. Edgar.
But with exceptional acting and a workman-like story, Curve is still a solid movie about family reconciliation and baseball that is worth seeing.
Eastwood acts under the direction of Robert Lorenz, who has a long history of collaboration with Eastwood as an Assistant Director, including on Oscar winner Million Dollar Baby.
Gus (Eastwood), a scout for the Atlanta Braves, makes a living watching high school and college players to see if they have what it takes to join the majors. He loves baseball and his daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), perhaps in that order. Mickey, raised on the road and in sports bars, also loves baseball but has chosen the path of the law. She is up for partner at her prestigious firm.
But when old age and weakening vision threaten to send Gus out to pasture, Mickey decides its her daughterly duty to take care of the old guy, even if he never took particularly good care of her. She packs her bags for one last roadtrip, taking leave from her high-pressure attorney responsibilities. She wants to take care of her dad, sure, but she also wants some answers on his distant and sometimes downright absent style of love.
On the road, the pair meet up with the old guard of baseball scouts who knew Mickey as a kid. But there’s a new guy, a handsome new guy, named Johnny (Justin Timberlake). Recruited by Gus back in the day as a player, he nurses his career ending injury with the salve of still being on the field as a scout.
There’s little doubt where all this will head. Mickey is a darn fine scout in her own right. Gus is an old codger with a soft heart. And Johnny? Well, he’s the only non-septuagenarian in sight.
The joy of this film is not in shocks, but in watching Adams, Eastwood, and Timberlake elevate scenes that would be melodrama or cliche in other hands. As Johnny and Mickey start to fall for eachother, they do so with chemistry that is missing from most bigger romantic comedies. When Mickey tries to connect with her dad, her quiet vulnerability and his blustering defensiveness feel natural and believable.
With a few mild swear words and light sexuality, the film is rated PG-13. There’s one scene in which the two young adults strip down to underwear to take a night dip in a lake, but it is neither explicit nor implied sexual activity. It would be a fine film for teens to watch.
The greater love story is between father and daughter who, despite their inability to show affection to each other, both just want happiness for the other.
Their journey beyond pain into closer relationship is as sweet as the sound of a ball on a bat.