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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Trouble With the Curve

By
John P. McCarthy
Source: Catholic News Service


Clint Eastwood stars in a scene from the movie "Trouble With the Curve."
With a few exceptions, every character Clint Eastwood has portrayed during his long career has had an ornery streak, regardless of their capacity for righteous or noble acts.

In the 2008 hit "Gran Torino," which he also directed, Eastwood starred as a curmudgeonly Detroit widower who surprises even himself by coming to the aid of his Hmong neighbors.

Appearing on the big screen for the first time since then, Eastwood limns another cantankerous senior citizen in the baseball movie "Trouble With the Curve" (Warner Bros.), directed by his frequent producing partner, Robert Lorenz.

More of a pitchers' duel than a high-scoring home run fest, this mostly winning outing is tarnished by an excess of salty language and middle innings that drag.

Eastwood is Gus Lobel, a veteran scout for the Atlanta Braves whose failing eyesight threatens to end his career. He refuses to disclose or treat his condition, and his fear and frustration manifest themselves in a noticeable spike in irritability.

Gus' loyal boss, Pete Klein (John Goodman), defends him against team officials who think he should be put out to pasture. Gus disdains younger scouts' reliance on computer models to assess players and has no time for a strictly quantitative approach to the game. (In this respect, the movie is the antithesis of last year's "Moneyball."). But if he can't see, not even Gus' instincts are of much use.

Worried and unsure about what's ailing his friend, Pete persuades Gus' daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), to accompany her dad to North Carolina to evaluate the high-school slugger considered a lock to go first in the upcoming draft. A workaholic lawyer, Mickey is very close to being offered a partnership in her Atlanta firm. She and Gus have a prickly relationship, marked by an inability to communicate about anything of substance.

Fortunately for Gus, Mickey is nearly as knowledgeable and passionate about the national pastime as he is. Battling ageism and sexism in two workplaces, father and daughter prove to be a potent battery. The experience also helps them work through their misunderstandings and lower their emotional defenses. Adding romance to the lineup is Johnny Flanagan (Justin Timberlake), a pitcher-turned-scout for the Boston Red Sox who's sweet on Mickey.

First-time director Lorenz advances the twangy material at too leisurely a pace and his visual style is pretty monotonous. Yet the movie serves up plenty of character-derived humor and enough baseball know-how to feel authentic without seeming too insider-ish. Charismatic performances by Adams and Timberlake are a huge plus.

While it's really Mickey who carries the story and grows the most, Gus' bad temper dominates the film owing to the number of expletives he utters. His vocabulary—arguably more limited than offensive—narrows the appeal of "Trouble With the Curve." It's too bad the filmmakers couldn't find more imaginative ways of signaling Gus' irascible nature.

The film contains frequent crude and crass language, much profanity, one instance of rough language, some sexual references and innuendo, and considerable alcohol consumption. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

****
John P. McCarthy is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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Rose Philippine Duchesne: Born in Grenoble, France, of a family that was among the new rich, Philippine learned political skills from her father and a love of the poor from her mother. The dominant feature of her temperament was a strong and dauntless will, which became the material—and the battlefield—of her holiness. She entered the convent at 19 and remained despite their opposition. As the French Revolution broke, the convent was closed, and she began taking care of the poor and sick, opened a school for homeless children and risked her life helping priests in the underground. 
<p>When the situation cooled, she personally rented her old convent, now a shambles, and tried to revive its religious life. The spirit was gone, and soon there were only four nuns left. They joined the infant Society of the Sacred Heart, whose young superior, St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, would be her lifelong friend. In a short time Philippine was a superior and supervisor of the novitiate and a school. But her ambition, since hearing tales of missionary work in Louisiana as a little girl, was to go to America and work among the Indians. At 49, she thought this would be her work. With four nuns, she spent 11 weeks at sea en route to New Orleans, and seven weeks more on the Mississippi to St. Louis. She then met one of the many disappointments of her life. The bishop had no place for them to live and work among Native Americans. Instead, he sent her to what she sadly called "the remotest village in the U.S.," St. Charles, Missouri. With characteristic drive and courage, she founded the first free school for girls west of the Mississippi. </p><p>It was a mistake. Though she was as hardy as any of the pioneer women in the wagons rolling west, cold and hunger drove them out—to Florissant, Missouri, where she founded the first Catholic Indian school, adding others in the territory. "In her first decade in America, Mother Duchesne suffered practically every hardship the frontier had to offer, except the threat of Indian massacre—poor lodging, shortages of food, drinking water, fuel and money, forest fires and blazing chimneys, the vagaries of the Missouri climate, cramped living quarters and the privation of all privacy, and the crude manners of children reared in rough surroundings and with only the slightest training in courtesy" (Louise Callan, R.S.C.J., <i>Philippine Duchesne</i>). </p><p>Finally at 72, in poor health and retired, she got her lifelong wish. A mission was founded at Sugar Creek, Kansas, among the Potawatomi. She was taken along. Though she could not learn their language, they soon named her "Woman-Who-Prays-Always." While others taught, she prayed. Legend has it that Native American children sneaked behind her as she knelt and sprinkled bits of paper on her habit, and came back hours later to find them undisturbed. She died in 1852 at the age of 83 and was canonized in 1988.</p> American Catholic Blog It was important for some saints to vanish from view, to “decrease” so that God could “increase” in the scheme of things. Many saints actively fought promotions. If obedience required embracing them, they found other ways to remain lowly.

 
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