Gnarly Clint Eastwood, who has already given us one of the year’s Highlights of Democracy, has more testy encounters with furniture in “Trouble with the Curve.”
As aging baseball scout Gus Lobel, Eastwood is finding it hard to evaluate potential prospects when he can hardly see what they are doing. Coffee tables and end tables keep cropping up in unexpected places, right where they were, while stairs keep moving.
Gus’ spatial disorientation extends to moving objects, like his aging red Mustang, which doesn’t quite fit in his garage anymore. These misadventures are enough to worry his limited circle of friends, especially Pete Klein, his boss within the Atlanta Braves organization.
Played by John Goodman at his most genial, Pete is feeling the heat from aggressive self-promoter Phillip Sanderson (Matthew Lillard), who is angling for his job and more. Discrediting Pete’s old pal Gus would help Phillip and his new guard advance.
Phillip is one of those new-fangled “Moneyball” guys, who know about computers and math and other stuff alien to real baseball folk. “Trouble with the Curve” is the anti-Moneyball, a throwback to the days before data when men were men and numbers were for ordering at the deli counter.
On the mound, at the plate and even on location, the worst thing you can do is think too much.
That criticism certainly doesn't apply to this script, but it may be what ails Gus’ upwardly mobile daughter Mickey. That’s not short for Michelle. With sad predictability, it’s also not short for Mickey Rivers, but Mantle. Expert ly played by Amy Adams, she is about to make partner at her high-powered Atlanta firm.
She has pursued this career to please her dad, with whom she sees regularly but shares meaningful conversations with never. Mickey still feels abandoned. Her mom died when she was young and Gus soon shunted her off to relatives and boarding school.
We don’t really know what Gus feels about her. He’s man of few words, almost all grumbles. But when the Braves dispatch Gus on a make-or-break assignment to evaluate a possible top draft pick, Mickey feels compelled to come along and help him see what he’s missing.
They quickly encounter Johnny “Flame” Flanagan (Justin Timberlake), one of Gus’ signees as a fire-balling young pitcher, whose arm later burned out from overuse. Trying to make his way into broadcasting, Johnny has accepted a temporary scouting gig from the Red Sox, who are jockeying with the Braves for a young slugger.
Navigating the troubled waters of their relationship, as well as office politics back in Atlantic, Eastwood and Adams bicker and cajole, mollify and sputter their way through a series of scenes that are predictably written but predictably well played.