You want romance and character development? See Bull Durham. Justin Timberlake and Amy Adams in Trouble With The Curve aren’t in the same league with Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon in Bull Durham.
Trouble With The Curve is all Clint Eastwood. The romance is fluff. Baseball is only the setting. Trouble With The Curve is about life and loss, failure and decline, maybe even aging gracefully. Not that I’m calling Clint Eastwood graceful.
Trouble With The Curve begins as a baseball movie that only a grumpy old man could love. But it fools you like a curveball in the dirt, and turns into, of all things, a chick flick. It might be the best baseball/romance combination since Bull Durham. Both movies are about life-changing events, about going with the curveballs life throws at you.
How do you get away with casting Clint Eastwood and Justin Timberlake in the same film? You add Amy Adams as daughter of the old man and love interest of the young one.
Ms. Adams is a sixth-year law firm associate on the verge of making partner. She’s an emotionally unavailable workaholic. Justin Timberlake is a formerly promising pitcher, still young but demoted to scouting after he burned out his pitching arm. He’s emotionally available enough for both of them.
Clint Eastwood plays himself. He’s an angry old baseball scout. His vision is blurry, he has trouble peeing, and even more trouble getting his car out of the garage. And his contract is up in three months. Looks like he’s on his last legs and at the end of his career. (I mean his baseball career, not his acting or directing career.) Eastwood drives a Mustang in Trouble With The Curve, reminiscent of Kevin Costner in Bull Durham; Timberlake drives a Pontiac convertible.
All three characters are haunted by the past and live in a disappointing present. It’s not giving anything away to say that the girlish lawyer and the boyish baseball scout are unconvincing. Their romantic connection is extrapolated from a few brief encounters at games during the day and in bars at night. But they’re likable and attractive and young, so who cares? For the duration of this one film, accept the premise that baseball trivia questions, interrupted by phone calls from the office, generate sparks of attraction.
You want romance? A brief, moonlit scene has the would-be lovers talking near a lake, the Pontiac parked romantically in the background. Adams remains resolutely unavailable, but like I said, Timberlake doesn’t have that problem. He initiates what might be the most circumspect skinny-dipping scene in film history. Truth be told, it’s skinny-dipping in underwear. They jump off the dock in their underwear. For Justin Timberlake’s female fans, there’s a fleeting view of his backside in underpants before he dives into the lake. Alas, for male viewers, Amy Adams keeps her T-shirt on as she does a cannonball off the dock.
In one of the bar scenes, Adams says, “Being alone sucks.” All three of them are alone. Eastwood’s character has been chronically alone since his wife died, long time ago. Amy was chronically alone because her single dad, doing what he felt was best, shunted her off to relatives and then to boarding school.
Clint, Amy, and Justin are together in North Carolina, scouting a high school slugger with a striking resemblance to Babe Ruth. All of their careers are on the line, for different reasons.
Of necessity, Amy acts as her father’s eyes at the ball games, and insists on driving his car in the interest of safety. There’s actually a scene in which she demands his car keys. Surprise: After a brief argument, Clint hands over the keys! Can you imagine Clint Eastwood giving up the car keys?
Despite all his failings, Eastwood is the wise old man in this film. He impatiently encourages the Amy-and-Justin romance. Most important, he somehow discerns that the high school slugger has trouble with the curveball, an insight that Amy confirms by watching the kid’s swing.
“You’ve got to know when to walk away,” Clint explains to Justin and Amy. But later he tells Justin, “This isn’t the time to walk away.”
Despite Clint’s spot-on assessment of the slugger, the front office drafts the player. Everything falls apart. Clint Eastwood’s scouting career is doomed, Justin Timberlake’s hopes of becoming a sports announcer are dashed, and Amy Adams is passed over for partner. And, of course, the romance crashes and burns.
There’s nothing more I can say without giving away the ending. (Except that an unlikely highlight of the film is Clint Eastwood singing “You Are My Sunshine.” I hope they make the soundtrack available.)
See Trouble With The Curve. You’ll be glad you did.
— John Hayden
(A personal postscript: Now and then, you read a book or see a movie that’s exactly what you needed at the very moment. I’ve experienced it several times with books. I once reviewed a novel that reflected the trajectory of my life. Last night, I walked into a movie that reflected me right now. Explanation: The motel where I work is closed for the winter. The door is locked. Your blogger is 64, at loose ends, and the future looks . . . uncertain. Enter Clint Eastwood as an over-the-hill baseball scout with prostate trouble and failing eyesight. He lives alone. He’s clumsy and accident-prone. Like many of us single men, he enjoys unhealthy food and an erratic lifestyle.)
- See the trailer for Clint Eastwood’s anti-“Moneyball” (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- Amy Adams & Justin Timberlake: ‘Trouble with the Curve’ Premiere! (justjared.com)
- Watch Clint Eastwood Act Again In Trouble With The Curve Trailer (thepeoplesmovies.com)
- Review: Clint Eastwood back on home turf in ‘Trouble With the Curve’ (cnn.com)