30 September, 2012

Review: "Trouble with the Curve" (****)

John Goodman, Amy Adams and Clint Eastwood star in "Trouble with the Curve"

Some of the productions that I report on here may shoot in several different states; some using Georgia to double as wherever else they need it to. I delight in the fact that "Trouble with the Curve" is set in and was shot exclusively in my state. Georgia dutifully plays the part of Western North Carolina for some of the story's elements, but without a doubt, this is a Georgia film. Athens, Atlanta, Dawsonville, Decatur, Dunwoody, Jasper, Macon and Young Harris all serve as backdrops for this charming father-daughter tale set in the world of baseball recruiting.

Having seen "Trouble with the Curve" a month ago, I've certainly had enough time to process what is essentially a simple film. Clint Eastwood and Georgia don't come together without me getting pretty excited, so honestly, my expectations were outrageous. Leaving the screening, I found the film a bit too soft for my tastes. However, as weeks went by and I began to see television advertisements, I found myself more moved than I had been while in my theater seat. Perhaps the filmmakers purposely calculated a time-release emotional reaction. One shot in particular gets me every time I see it; a baseball on the ground being picked up by a player as the camera pans up to an open field beneath the North Georgia mountains. I just can't explain it. But there is a lot more substance to appreciate in the film, and most of it has to do with Amy Adams.

In a million years, I never would have imagined I would make Amy Adams the focus in a review of a film that also starred Clint Eastwood. Not to say Eastwood ranks as a better actor than Adams; he's just a longtime hero of mine. I'm not even surprised that Adams is the best thing about "Trouble with the Curve." This is the woman who easily bounced from "Junebug" to "Enchanted" to "Doubt" to "Julie & Julia" to "The Fighter" to "The Muppets" to "The Master." Enough said. Adams brings the same self-awareness that she had in "The Fighter" but with a much softer edge. By the end, it's both her revelation and the forgiveness she shows her father that makes it one of her most affecting turns yet.

Being released in September usually means one of two things; the studio thinks they have early Oscar bait on their hands or the studio is trying to maximize their box office potential by releasing during one of the less competitive months. "Trouble with the Curve" is a bit of both. You've got two Academy stalwarts front and center and familiar faces in Goodman and Timberlake. But the film is more of a lightweight diversion from the impending bounty of beefier offerings on their way. Robert Lorenz does a fine job in his first outing as a director, but there just aren't enough elements to transform this nice story, even with a standout performance from Adams, into a big league awards player.

We've seen behind-the-scenes baseball movies. We've seen Clint Eastwood be a grumpy old man. We've seen Justin Timberlake be a fun-loving smooth-talker.  All of these are worth seeing again in "Trouble with the Curve," and it doesn't have to be any more than that.

4 out of 5 stars.

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