So I’m a dad with a daughter who has a big day coming this week, a dad ever-concerned about what his relationship with his little girl will be when she grows up, a dad whose baseball life just reached a point of almost no return.
So it might seem like I’m the audience for “Trouble with the Curve,” which premiered tonight in Westwood. And it turns out I am, but not for the baseball reasons, but for the dad-and-daughter reasons.
“Trouble” wears its anti-“Moneyball” heart on its sleeve, slagging anything remotely smacking of scouting that doesn’t come from the visceral senses. The straw men are as high as an elephant’s eye, the opening minutes of the Randy Brown script so hamfisted that it portends a long, long slog.
But then the movie throws a you-know-what, and finds the same thing that really made “Moneyball” the gem that it was. It explores the struggle between a father and daughter, in a way taking on even more challenging terrain than the Bennett Miller film did. And it compliments it with a fairly lovely love story between the daughter and a guy that, for a change, the father thinks is just right for his girl. Somehow, what figured to be cliche surprises and becomes original.
I’m not the first to note this, but while Clint Eastwood is the grizzled face of “Trouble,” Amy Adams is the backbone. She carries this movie and elevates it above what might have been a baseball knockoff of “Gran Torino.” Eastwood has some razored moments amid the performance you’ve come to expect from him, but once the nauseating set-up gets out of the way, Adams emerges, nursing alternating moments of boldness and vulnerability that must have seemed like a gift from the gods to Brown and director Robert Lorenz. Put this movie in the Golden Globes comedy category, and there’s a performance the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. should take seriously.
Justin Timberlake also connects playing a well-conceived character, a guy already onto his second career instead of the proverbial down-on-his-luck washout. And John Goodman shows why he’s one of the most reliable actors around, giving line reads that smooth out even the film’s stilted first act.
“Trouble with the Curve,” isn’t as good as “Moneyball,” but it’s a movie that you’d be hard-pressed not to enjoy in the end. As is often the case with a good baseball pic, the baseball is the very least of its virtues.
I’ll be thinking about this movie when my daughter wakes up Thursday, age 9 and 363 days.