It doesn't take much to realise that, despite Robert Lorenz's directing credit, Trouble with the Curve is a Clint Eastwood film in all but name; not only does he star and produce, but his usual crew is staffing (DP Tom Stern, production designer James Murakami and editors Gary Roach and Joel Cox), with Mr. Lorenz himself being Mr. Eastwood's close associate for nearly 20 years now, first as assistant director then as producer. But this is no late-period Eastwood classic; more like one of his earlier mid-1970s-to-1980s crowd-pleasers aimed at heartland America.

     Randy Brown's formulaic script is set in the world of small-town baseball, with Mr. Eastwood as the ageing veteran scout Gus Lobel, whose diagnosis of glaucoma reluctantly leads him to team up with his estranged daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), a high-powered Atlanta lawyer, for a scouting trip to North Carolina. More than one reviewer has pointed out the film is a sort of reversed mirror image of Bennett Miller's Moneyball, rooting for the "human factor" and for the comeuppance of the careerist stats-cruncher (here divided between Gus' scouting nemesis and the smarmy lawyer threatening Mickey's accession to partnership at her law firm). But both films are about the second chances inbuilt in the American dream, seen from two different sides of the fence, with Trouble with the Curve being more of a paean to good old-fashioned American family values as opposed to a hollow, career-first life.

     And, sad to say, Moneyball was the better film; despite the hand-crafted look, Mr. Lorenz is mainly a sage, workmanlike illustrator of a by-the-book, predictable script, letting the film coast on the down-home, laid-back charms of the small-town setting and on the easy rapport between the well-chosen cast. Mr. Eastwood mainly plays off his cantankerous old coot image, Ms. Adams again proves what a great all-rounder she is, and Justin Timberlake (as her rookie scout love interest) becomes more of an actor with every new role. It all may be enough for a feel-good two-hour time-passer, but doesn't make it any more than another minor entry in the Eastwood oeuvre.

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake, Robert Patrick, Matthew Lillard, John Goodman

Director: Robert Lorenz
Screenplay: Randy Brown
Cinematography: Tom Stern  (colour, processing by Technicolor, Panavision widescreen)
Music: Marco Beltrami
Designer: James J. Murakami
Costumes: Deborah Hopper
Editors: Gary D. Roach, Joel Cox
Producers: Mr. Eastwood, Mr. Lorenz, Michele Weisler (Warner Bros. Pictures, The Malpaso Company)
USA, 2012, 111 minutes

Screened: Cinema City Campo Pequeno 4 (Lisbon), November 25th 2012


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