After producing all of Clint Eastwood's directorial efforts over the last decade, Robert Lorenz makes his debut behind the camera with Trouble With the Curve, and has turned to his long-time collaborator to lead his impressive cast. The film follows curmudgeonly veteran baseball scout, Gus Lobel (Eastwood), whose dedication to his job and to the game has consumed his personal life. As the ambitious young board of his team, the Atlanta Bears, begin to close in on Gus, old age starts to catch up with him as he attempts to hide the fact that he is losing his sight. Alone and emotionally unavailable, he receives support from his boss and only friend, Pete Klein (John Goodman), who suspects something is wrong. Behind Gus' back, Pete pleads with Gus' semi-estranged daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), a high-flying city lawyer, to accompany him on a scouting trip to North Carolina where their fractious relationship is put to the test. The pair are forced to confront their past as long-held truths are gradually revealed. The situation is complicated further when a rival scout named Johnny Flanagan (Justin Timberlake) arrives on the scene and takes a shine to Mickey.
Lorenz has assembled an excellent cast. Eastwood leads the cast with his well-worn misanthropic scowl, seen most recently in Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino, and although the act is a platitudinous one, there are few actors that can undergo a Dickensian heart-melting on such a regular basis and still be convincing. His father/daughter chemistry with Amy Adams is believable and she brings the same warmth that she does to every role, despite having to chew her way through some pretty clunky dialogue. Justin Timberlake plays the boy-next-door role with surprising levity and charm, and John Goodman provides characteristically solid support as the avuncular, and spectacularly moustachioed Pete.
Despite the best efforts of an experienced cast, the performances can't save Trouble With the Curve from its troublesome script. First time screenwriter Randy Brown's screenplay relies almost solely on sentiment, cliché and (at times laughable) coincidence. The lethargic plotting is effortlessly predictable and laboriously conventional, with all of the good work Adams and Eastwood have done in the first hour of the film being instantly undone with a spectacularly misjudged plot twist. The ludicrously contrived final act consists of a sprint finish to tie up every loose end, whilst previously flagged plot points are resolved with the subtlety of a brick coming through a window.
Comparisons with last year's surprise Oscar contender, Moneyball will be inevitable, and while Bennett Miller's baseball drama was progressive in its outlook, storytelling and even casting, Trouble With the Curve looks from all angles like unashamedly conservative filmmaking; an atavistic all-American sports drama with very little new to say.