Clint Eastwood’s best picture since Gran Torino (zero Oscar nominations) is Trouble with the Curve, on the surface a baseball movie but really a defense of a kind of cultural conservatism that is quintessentially Clint. Eastwood plays Gus, a longtime talent scout whose prostate and eyesight are failing at roughly the same rate. By the end of the movie, he hasn’t done anything about these but he has shown some young hotshots a thing or two about experience, wisdom, and age.
Gus, a widower whose wife’s tombstone is inscribed “May the Lord grant you extra innings,” is in danger of losing his job (a fellow scout, played by John Goodman, even suggests this might be a good moment to retire) while in the process of scouting an arrogant small-town slugger (played to perfection by Joe Massingill) who figures to be a first-round draft pick.
Decrying the way that number-crunching knuckleheads like a younger competitor have no feel for the aspects of the game that don’t show up in statistics, Gus believes the human factor is the reason a young protegé is in a slump. So he arranges for the kid’s parents to come see him, and the problem is fixed. Standing in for every young spreadsheet geek (and, without being mentioned, Moneyball) is a rival scout played by Matthew Lillard of The Descendants, who can now boast of playing the sworn enemy of both Eastwood and George Clooney within the space of a year. Lillard’s character believes you can learn everything there is to know about a player without ever attending a ballgame. As Sam Kinison used to say: Is he right? Hint: Gus says things like, “Anybody who uses computers doesn’t know a damn thing about this game!”
Gus has a daughter who has become a big success as a lawyer in Atlanta, but though she grew up talking baseball with her dad, something isn’t right between them. Also, she is working on a case that will determine whether she makes partner, but worrying about what will happen to her dad if he is forced out to pasture, she agrees to come along on his road trip to contribute her considerable baseball acumen and make sure he doesn’t drive too much. He complains that the reason his ‘65 Mustang is looking a little banged-up is because his garage suddenly got smaller.