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‘Curve’ throws a strike, thanks to its stars

Eastwood, Adams, Timberlake shine in a date movie with baseball theme

POSTED: September 20, 2012 12:30 a.m.

It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to say this: the new Clint Eastwood film is a great date movie.

“Trouble with the Curve” comes billed as a sports movie, but baseball serves merely as a backdrop and a source of conflict for two intertwined stories, one about a father and daughter bonding and the other about two opposites falling in love.

The movie is formulaic and offers nothing new, but the story is told capably and the actors give strong performances. It was also shot in Athens, Hall County and surrounding areas and features the Atlanta Braves, which adds a layer of pleasure for North Georgians.

All of this elevates a predictable story up to the level of satisfying entertainment.

The movie begins with Gus (Clint Eastwood) wandering onto a convention stage and talking to a chair. Oh wait, that was something else. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Actually, Gus is an aging baseball scout who has been the Braves’ best eye for talent for decades. Gus’ eyes are failing him now, though. He is slowly losing his sight, which means his scouting days as are numbered. Especially because Gus’ current assignment is to scout the Braves’ potential first draft pick. If he blows it, he will be fired.

Gus’ only remaining friend in the Braves’ organization, Pete (John Goodman), convinces Gus’ daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), to travel with Gus and act as his eyes.

But Mickey harbors much resentment toward her dad, who was absent throughout her childhood and is generally a disagreeable person. She is also on the verge of earning a partnership at her law firm. Mickey goes, but reluctantly.

Another scout, former pitching phenom Johnny (Justin Timberlake), takes a shine to Mickey instantly, adding the romantic subplot to the movie’s father and daughter with issues main story.

The movie is directed by longtime Eastwood collaborator Robert Lorenz, who served as assistant director and/or producer on over a dozen Eastwood-directed movies. Aside from being generally unremarkable, the style of the movie is indistinguishable from an Eastwood film.

The screenplay also makes a few huge, unmotivated leaps. Mickey and Gus don’t slowly unravel all their baggage, so much as that baggage unexpectedly tumbles randomly onto the screen. The story advances with fits and starts that frequently don’t make much sense.

However, the lead actors rescue the movie.

After Eastwood’s odd, divisive, yet unquestionably memorable convention appearance, it’s nice to see him doing something we all can agree on: lending his acting talents to a movie.

One scene in particular reminds us just how good Eastwood can be on screen. Gus visits the grave of his long-deceased wife. He has the expected, tearful conversation with her, which ends with Gus singing “You Are My Sunshine” to the tombstone. As screenwriting goes, this is as cheesy and strained as it gets. Shouldn’t work at all.

But there’s Eastwood, lip quivering and voice quavering, making one of the worst-written scenes of the year work. Unfortunately, he is relegated to worn-out, cranky old man mode for much of the film.

Timberlake gives another surprising performance, although at this point I should stop being surprised. He now has several respectable roles on his resumé, and here he has the luxury of simply letting his charm take over.

However, Adams is the ace in the bullpen. When Eastwood and Timberlake are on their own, the tempo slows and the energy drops. Yet whenever they are on screen with Adams, the movie becomes irresistible.

Adams stands toe-to-toe against one of the most imposing figures in all of movie history. She and Eastwood spar and admirably plumb what little depth the screenplay gives them.

Adams and Timberlake also find the joy in a painfully predictable romance.

The movie will underwhelm those looking for great drama, but it combines drama, comedy and sports in a way that should please moviegoing couples.

Jeff Marker teaches film and literature at Gainesville State College. His reviews appear weekly in Get Out and on gainesvilletimes.com/getout.


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