Adam: Welcome to another season of Reserved Seating Swings for the Fences. I’m Adam Riske.
Rob: And I’m Rob DiCristino.
Trouble with the Curve is a perfect Reserved Seating movie because it’s ½ charming, ½ pretty bad, and all fun to discuss. As a road trip drama, it mostly works because the cast is overqualified and Amy Adams drags it to success. The movie is sweet at its center even if embarrassingly naive. As a baseball story, it’s hilarious for many reasons we’ll get into later. I think what trips up the film are the two main male leads, played by Eastwood and Timberlake. Justin Timberlake is very talented as a performer but he’s not a very good actor. In my humble opinion, he sounds like a little boy pretending to be a grown man in Trouble with the Curve, and his whole character trajectory in relation to baseball (he acquits himself fine in the romantic scenes) is ridiculous. I can buy that he’s a former prospect whose career didn’t pan out so he became a scout. I can’t buy that he thinks scouting is his ticket to the broadcast booth (Why not just go into broadcasting? Why doesn’t he need to earn his dues broadcasting minor leagues first?) or that the Red Sox would send a guy like him (who needs to ask for scouting advice from the family Lobel) to check out their projected no. 1 prospect? I don’t think there’s a single moment in the movie showing Timberlake good at his job. As for Eastwood, I used to be a fan of his, like most people, but something happened with him in the past ten years and he’s become a laughable angry old man raging at the world. In Trouble with the Curve, it’s to the point of parody. He’s mad at specialists, he’s mad at tables, he’s mad at waitresses, he’s mad at computers, he’s mad at phones, etc. He’s at a table for one and the world is the restaurant.
But before we get there, I need to agree and disagree with you when it comes to Justin Timberlake. He feels super performative and out of his depth here (and in Black Snake Moan, a favorite of mine that he occasionally interrupts with his badness), but I find him fascinating in The Social Network. Maybe that was just case of the right actor playing the right role at the right time? Could just be me. Something just tells me that he has a good performance in him that we haven’t seen yet.
Anyway, does the movie want us to like Bo Gentry, or not? He’s clearly a dick to his teammates (especially the smaller kid who is inexplicably batting before him. Is he fast, or something? Does he walk a lot? What’s his OBP?), but then we get the rising music and slow motion revelry every time he gets a hit. And yeah, what the hell does being a scout have to do with being a broadcaster? And did you notice how the A-plot sort of runs out of steam about twenty minutes before the end, so the movie just becomes something else for a while? And, wait. Back to Bo for a minute: No one had ever thought to throw him a breaking ball before? The number one prospect in baseball? I understand that the movie is trying to illustrate the importance of being on the road, digging in, and using instinct rather than relying on numbers on a computer screen, but this is all so damn sloppy. Sorry, I’m just ranting because there are so many directions to go in.
They said flat out that kids are being judged from the moment they step out of their mom’s car. If the kid doesn’t have his uniform on? He’s docked. If the kid isn’t carrying his own bags? He’s worthless. Are the parents bringing him water during a game? He will never play in the big leagues. I’m not exaggerating. When I saw Bo regaling (in front of MLB scouts) how he wants to bang the cast of Desperate Housewives when he makes it to the pros and habitually chewing out his other teammates….c’mon! That kid had no chance of getting drafted, let alone in the first run of the first round. Also, wouldn’t the scouts be allowed to talk to the players at some point? I tried Googling it and it seems like it’s within their abilities since the organizations are in constant contact with high school and college athletes during September to May before the draft in June. Also, why is Bo at the Braves ballpark taking batting practice immediately after the draft? Is he just bypassing all minor league ball? Matthew Lillard keeps saying he’ll transform their lineup for the next five to ten years….no he will not! If the kid is 18, he’ll be in the minors for at least one to two years and what fucking baseball team drafts for need in the MLB draft especially at no. 2? At no. 2 you get the best player available, period. End of story. If you’re drafting at no. 2 that means your team lost a lot of games last year and are not going to compete immediately anyways. Yikes! #Rebuild
What did you think of the late subplot about the motel owner’s son who is anointed the next Sandy Koufax after he threw less than ten pitches?
Can we talk for a minute about the insane tonal shift the movie takes when Gus reveals his rationale for leaving his daughter in boarding school for all those years? It comes completely out of left field (no pun intended), absolves Gus for his sins in the most narratively lazy way possible, and is then completely ignored for the rest of the movie.
Adam: It gets worse than that. Eastwood realizes he needs to send her away because she was almost molested in a barn and he beat the guy half to death after he found them. This is from another movie. A much more serious movie. I hate hate hate when movies use abuse as a plot device that they’re not interested in dealing with seriously. It’s so gross, especially when it’s really about turning Eastwood into a sympathetic figure.
I guess now is a good time to talk about Amy Adams. Say what you want about the movie, but her performance in Trouble with the Curve is really quite good. She gives this part a depth and soul that’s impressive for a movie as light as this one. I think her romance with Justin Timberlake is the part of the film that works the most conventionally, although it seems like a mismatch. She’s so clearly an adult and he’s a man-boy in my eyes. Also, I’ll just say she’s absolutely beautiful in the film. It’s like she has a grace or glow to her here that I’m not used to always seeing with Amy Adams in some of her other films. She has great hair I guess is what I’m trying to say. Maybe it’s because she’s talking about baseball all the time? I dunno. I just have a crush on her in this movie. It’s a real movie star flex.
Is it just me or does Clint Eastwood not really factor into the most important parts of the film? It feels like it’s really Amy Adams’s movie by the end and Eastwood’s character would have made just as much sense being found dead in a diner booth as getting an extension to his deal to scout the Atlanta Braves.
Where do you rank this on the scale of baseball movies? Despite Johnny and Mickey trading trivia, Trouble with the Curve doesn’t seem to know much or have anything interesting to say about the game.
Adam: It’s a pretty uninspired baseball movie. Just now I was thinking about how much better this would’ve been if Eastwood approached the character like a Mr. Miyagi type and Adams was a young scout he’s showing the ropes. The movie is screaming for a pass-the-torch type of trajectory, but Eastwood’s vanity won’t allow it. He needs to show those punk “youngsters” he still has the hardest dick in the clubhouse. Remember how the movie opens with him yelling at his dick because he can’t pee like an alpha? Remember how Scott Eastwood cameos at the beginning and his cold open is explained away in a line of dialogue at the end? Remember how the motel they’re staying at has a cute name only from a movie like the Rusty Squirrel or something like that? In closing a brief observation: I’m anointing this the middle chapter in Clint Eastwood’s 2K Diner Trilogy with Million Dollar Baby and The Mule. I’m convinced he only stars in movies deliberately to go on road trips, stay in motels and get a bite to eat every now and then.
Rob: It’s hard to deny the appeal of a good diner, especially when the waitresses are throwing crossword puzzles your way. Just don’t be late with the check! He doesn’t like that. Anyway, it’s a big Mark Off for me on Trouble with the Curve, though I really did enjoy some of the goofier moments. I ended up doubling this with Draft Day because I was so eager for a good version of these tropes. Bo Gentry ain’t got shit on Bo Callahan. What are we talking about next week?
Adam: He sure doesn’t. Next week we’re doing our monthly new-to-me film discoveries column. I know you’ve been having a solid month and so have I. The key is not seeing new releases :-)
Rob: It’s been a good month, and it’s only getting better. Until next time…
Adam: These seats are reserved.