I Am, I Said/To No One There
Amy Adams is amazing, really. Clint Eastwood has had many female co-stars, from Shirley MacLaine to Meryl Streep, and directed a bevy of others, some of whom have given great performances—Laura Linney, Marcia Gay Harden, Hilary Swank, Angelina Jolie, two of them to Oscars—all have studied at the Eastwood school. The results have been a combination of actress' gifts and Eastwood guile. But, none of them have taken to heart that state of naturalness, the implacable restraint and mandarin ironic humor that the actor has demonstrated in the past like Adams does in Trouble with the Curve, Eastwood's latest project (produced but not directed—that job going to Eastwood's assistant director Robert Lorenz) about the relationship between an aged baseball scout and his estranged-but-not-fallen-far-from-the-tree daughter. Linney has played Eastwood's screen-daughter in the past, and she was terrific, but Adams imbues so much of Eastwood's game that one actually believes in the symbiosis, and their scenes together crackle with a lived-in familiarity, a mutual passive-aggressiveness, and a sense of shared past and unspoken tensions.
Eastwood is the top-liner but it's the daughter's story. Mickey Lobell (Adams) is on track to partner at a law firm (nice line up of of Bob Gunton, George Wyner and Jack Gilpin—in fact, the film is top-loaded with good character actors, not only in the firm, but also in the Braves organization—Robert Patrick—and among the veteran scouts—Ed Lauter, Raymond Anthony Thomas, and Chelcie Ross) when she gets wind from family friend, Atlanta Braves scouting coach Pete Klein (John Goodman) that her scout father (Eastwood) is about to be brushed back in the organization—he's old, his eyes are going, and there's a new scout (Mathew Lillard) who's more into stats and remote-controlling his decisions than doing the leg-work of seeing and hearing what the talent can do (this one would make a fine double-bill with Moneyball if double-bills still existed). Lobell is given one last chance—check out a kid with a killer swing (Joe Massingill) who looks to be a high draft pick. Lobell's job is on the line, and Klein recruits Mickey to follow the old man on-deck and pinch-hit for him if necessary as a seeing-eye daughter. Against her better instincts, she heads to North Carolina to dog her father by day and work on her client-presentation at night (the film sends mixed messages on the thesis of remote-working, as it seems to be fine for her), the father and daughter trading mutual scowls and muted growls, trying to "get closer" while they couldn't seem more like each other.
That's a lot of scenario for a deceptively simple story about relationships and the importance of "being there" in them. It is also complicated by the mutual interaction between a fellow scout (Justin Timberlake) that the older Lobell has a past with, and the younger might have a future with—Timberlake does fine, relaxed...even charming...work here, not so strong on the dramatics, but hitting solidly on the humor (best line: "Poor Bruce..."), finding a nice line between Eastwood and Adams and making the most of a convenience role to show growth between the two characters.
It works and works solidly if you, like Eastwood's character, don't look too well at it. And there's some late inning contrivances that come out of left field that tie everything up a little too conveniently and nicely, managing to retire the side and take care of every issue in only three pitches. I smelled a rigged game—we really didn't need a Grand Slam on the last pitch to put up a "W" for this one, and, to my mind, took away from the good things that had come before.
Maybe I was feeling that way, anyway. Personally, I'd've been happy if Clint Eastwood had stuck to his lack of guns and retired from acting (as he said he was doing) with Gran Torino. The grace-note of that particular character's last act served as a "period" to the syntax of Eastwood's career, full of so many unrealistic face-offs with clusters of opponents throughout the years. It was the perfect bow and the perfect statement. But, he had to do a friend a favor—get his buddy a director card—and so he came back. I found it a little disappointing to find out that even Eastwood didn't know when the quitting was good. But, his work here is good, even if the eyes are squinting down to a lack of expressiveness (he does a wink here that is probably only visible in HD), and the voice has been reduced to a burned-out husk. The gravitas and irony are still there, though, enough for Adams to latch onto and take advantage of. And it makes for a pretty good show, while it lasts.
Trouble with the Curve is a Rental.