*½/**** Image A Sound A Extras D
starring Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman
screenplay by Randy Brown
directed by Robert Lorenz
by Angelo Muredda Trouble with the Curve is an unfortunate title for a film beset with problems on every side. Helmed by longtime Clint Eastwood producer/assistant director/close friend Robert Lorenz, making his equally unfortunate feature debut, it isn't directed so much as stiffly pushed in the direction of new events once every ten minutes or so. A father-daughter family drama, a sports movie, and a portrait of a career woman swimming with the sharks, first-timer Randy Brown's screenplay is a mess beyond even an experienced director's fixing.
Eastwood, apparently good for a favour, plays Gus, an ailing baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves. Unsteady in his steps and going blind, Gus is about to be put out to pasture by GM Vince (Robert Patrick), who has the fittingly named, slippery upstart Tom Silver (Matthew Lillard) whispering cankerous nothings in his ear. Gus would be a goner but for the intervention of upper-management buddy Pete (John Goodman), who nabs his old friend some extra time by convincing Gus's estranged daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) to trail him on one last mission, being his eyes for a recruiting trip. Their combined efforts nominally pit them against Red Sox scout Johnny (Justin Timberlake), but the tension's immediately defused when it turns out he's a great guy, if a weird one--the sort who creeps little league practice sessions until the poor kids ask him to leave.
Seeing Adams and Eastwood interact is not unpleasant, and you can't say they aren't trying, but the film takes an awfully long time to get moving, deferring its modest charms past their sell-by date. The first act is dead weight: Watch how Lorenz stages an inexcusably long expository scene between Goodman, Lillard, and Patrick as a shot/countershot roulette, following a botched master shot. As if that weren't punishing enough, roughly the same scene is restaged moments later with Adams, in front of yet another tribunal of character actors who get to decide whether she nabs a big promotion. Again all we get are sloppy close-ups of discrete faces, shifting back and forth with no discernible rhythm. This is the work of someone who needs to dole out information but doesn't know how to do it.
The film's on more solid ground with its leads, especially Adams, who is surprisingly nuanced given what little she has to work with. Mickey's a dream girl, the Smart Business Lady who'd rather follow her father to baseball games than secure her career, which doesn't square with the endless shots of her burying her "beak"--Dad's words--in her Blackberry. (Lorenz seems confused about how smartphones work, having Mickey scan but never reply to texts as she receives them, as if her job description reads "answering machine.") But Adams has the poise of a corporate lawyer and the innate competence of an amateur scout, directing herself to a fine performance.
Growling at appliances and struggling to keep a straight face during his big scene, a tipsy, spoken-word rendition of "You Are My Sunshine" delivered to a gravestone, Eastwood doesn't have as much to do. He makes a convincing distant father to Adams, though, despite a crass third-act twist that explains why he sent her away as a kid after her mother's death. Brown's script seems determined to piss away the goodwill the actors work so hard to gain, building things to a shameful climax involving a humble Latino peanut vendor with a good arm. From his clunky first appearance, it's obvious he'll be scouted, but you hope it's by someone with better taste in new talent than Eastwood.
THE BLU-RAY DISC
by Bill Chambers Shot in 35mm CinemaScope, Trouble with the Curve exports to Blu-ray in a fine-grain 2.40:1, 1080p transfer with deep blacks, incredible textural detail, and overgraded colours bordering on putrid. Clint Eastwood's current cinematographer Tom Stern and director Rob Lorenz maybe let a little more natural (and unnatural) light into the frame but otherwise perpetuate their mentor's latter-day SteadiCam-on-shoulder, velvet-painting aesthetic. Again, though, the image is crisp, as are the various cracks, thwacks, and clinks gracing the soundtrack. That collision of wood and leather has never sounded as rich as it does in this 5.1 DTS-HD MA rendering of an otherwise-unexceptional, hemispheric mix.
Two five-minute, HD featurettes--"Trouble with the Curve: Rising Through the Ranks" and "Trouble with the Curve: For the Love of the Game"--are also on board the disc, the first addressing Lorenz's long-time affiliation with Eastwood (everyone's impressed with this first-time filmmaker's "preparedness," which is about one step up from complimenting the catering), the second the alleged chemistry between Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake. Both actors say their characters are the closest they've ever played to themselves, with Adams describing her real self as "acerbic" and "petulant." As for Timberlake: I just don't get it, man. He's the drama-club dink all the girls pretended was "hilarious" to feel less shallow for objectifying him. On the other hand, he was great as Sean Parker. The trailer for 42, the long-awaited Jackie Robinson biopic starring an unrecognizable Harrison Ford (though not as Robinson), cues up on startup. Included in the keepcase are DVD and Ultraviolet copies of the film.