Last year’s Oscar-baity Moneyball presented a clean, slick story about Sabermetrics – a way of forming baseball teams using hard numbers and databases more than personal evaulation of watching boys play ball. Like this method, the film felt a little hollow, but that at least added a unique documentarian quality to it.
This year’s Oscar-baity Trouble With the Curve aims to debate the points Moneyball made. It stars Clint Eastwood as an old timer baseball scout, one of the last major leaguers to look at the players without looking at their numbers on some new-fangled com-pew-terr.
Regardless of which method better sizes up athletes, Trouble With the Curve takes the more compelling stand – people and experience over technology and potential future takeovers by nefarious robots looking to erase the Acidic Humans from Earth’s registers. But Trouble With the Curves is the far worse film for one very simple reason: it’s fucking stupid.
Eastwood’s character, Gus, is an old grump. Whassamattawithim!? Why’s it so hard to for him to take care of himself? Why can’t he talk to his daughter like a normal person? We get some insight into these problems with a totally unnecessary scene of Gus breaking down into tears when talking to his Wife’s tombstone. It doesn’t do anything to advance the story or characters, it was clearly written to be played at an Oscar ceremony where Eastwood is potentially nominated for Best Actor after they read of his name.
The rest of his problems are easily explained away when Gus is all like “Child molestation!” (That’s not verbatim, but the actual explanation is just as unfortunately absurd.)
When Gus, an eternal bachelor, starts losing his grip, his loved ones take notice. His daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) may be some big-city lawyer, but she drops her job for a few days to keep an eye on her ol’ pa while he’s on a scouting trip. Oh, the hardships they face as they attempt to sew their relationship back together! At some moments, it feels as though they may never get along!
So it’s a good thing that there’s a cutie around to perk things up! JT, my man, plays Johnny, one of Gus’ old prospects that’s been scouting himself ever since leaving the game. He’s got a thing for Amy Adams’ chararacter, but she’s just too uptight for him. Naw, it’s cool though, they fall in love.
The most frustrating thing about Trouble With the Curve is how far beneath it this movie and this role is for Adams. In The Master, which provides fantastic contrast by also opening in wide release today, she snaps up scenes opposite some two colossal performances just by being straightforward. She pulls off the Mickey character with flying colors, but the Mickey character is a dull cliché that was lucky to have Adams play her.
Timberlake’s not as lucky – his undeniable charisma can’t come close to filling out the cutsie jokes he has to rattle off. Eastwood meets his quota for the film – his raspy voice honestly does all the acting required for the role, and Eastwood doesn’t do anything more than he’s required.
I was expecting Oscar-bait, but Trouble With the Curve would be more at place on ABC Family than on the awards circuit. There’s some competence to be found within it, but by taking on a wishy-washy feely-goody of a story and not backing it up with any real drama, it only plays as contrived. I’d expect this much from a TV movie, but not from an Awards Season film staring three talented actors.