In our Clint Eastwood interview, he said that he returned to acting for the first time since 2008’s Gran Torino as a favor to his longtime mentee, Trouble with the Curve director Robert Lorenz. It has been even longer since Eastwood acted in a film where he was not the director. 1993’s In the Line of Fire was the last time! The role of Gus, an aging top scout for the Atlanta Braves, had to have something to do with enticing Eastwood back to acting. It's a juicy one.
We meet Eastwood’s Gus in the film’s opening moments and it is established that he is having some trouble with his eyesight -- not a good thing at all for someone who makes his living looking at prospects that could be worth tens of millions of dollars.
John Goodman is the Braves head of scouting and he is an old confidant of Gus’ and still believes in the man. Matthew Lillard is an up-and-coming scout who relies solely on computer models for players in terms of who should be drafted and ignored. The old versus new ways of doing things storyline is not new in Trouble with the Curve. But in the hands of Eastwood, and Goodman for that matter, it is a winning combination.
Amy Adams is Eastwood’s daughter, who has a strained at best relationship with her father. She is a partner-track lawyer at a prestigious Atlanta law firm and at the urging of Goodman, phones Gus’ doctor to find out what the latest is on her father. The doc confirms Eastwood’s condition -- that coupled with Goodman’s telling her that if Eastwood does not come back from a North Carolina scouting trip successful, he will be “set out to pasture.”
What’s a daughter to do? Why… leave her law work behind and head to the Tar Heel state to help dear old dad.
Some of this part of the plot is a little Hollywood. Its peaks and valleys are as predictable as they come, yet it is saved by two Oscar-caliber performances by Adams and Eastwood. Their repartee is worth the price of admission alone. Toss in a surprisingly laid-back performance by Justin Timberlake as a fellow scout who Gus once recruited for the Braves and we have a unique character triangle that works on all cylinders.
Adams and Timberlake flirt, while Eastwood calmly keeps to business. We learn that Adams’ mom died when she was young and she never had a close relationship with her father, who sent her to boarding school. She sees the camaraderie of Timberlake and Eastwood’s characters and wants something more from her father.
Will Gus get the top prospect? Will Adams and Eastwood’s characters re-connect? Heck, will Timberlake and Adams fall in love? All these answers come at the audience in the final 30 minutes of the film and we have to say that although they feel a little formula, Trouble with the Curve adds up to a solid win for all those involved.
Perhaps it’s our love of the game of baseball. It could be the extraordinary acting of the lead three, along with stellar supporting turns by Goodman and Lillard. Either way, by the end of the film, we declare that the creative team has hit a home run.