Making the Grades
Art reflects life in this tale of an aging baseball scout named Gus, played by the aging actor Clint Eastwood. Although I don’t know for sure, I suspect the real man may be just as frustrated as the fictitious one at the limitations the passage of time can force on the independently minded, whether they be legitimate (like health issues) or imagined (such as questions of competence by an unsympathetic younger generation).
In the case of Gus, life has just thrown him another curve ball. Having already struck out on happiness because of the untimely death of his wife and the ensuing dysfunctional relationship with his little girl, the embittered man is now faced with a degenerative eye condition that is threatening to destroy his lengthy career. Fearing he will lose his only remaining love (baseball), the elderly man denies the problem in the hopes of avoiding retirement.
Yet his struggles have not gone unnoticed by his coworkers. While his long time friend and boss Pete Klein (John Goodman) is worried about his well-being, Phillip (Matthew Lillard), an ambitious up and comer, simply sees a reason to eliminate the old man and his job, especially as he believes computers are the best way to find potential baseball stars.
Knowing everything rides on the success of his next scouting trip, Gus heads out to watch a promising hitter (Joe Massingill) who is also being eyed by his competition. With all the pressure he has to deal with it is little wonder he is not pleased when his daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) shows up. Angry at her presence that is a result of a strong suggestion by Pete, and ignoring the personal sacrifices Mickey has made with her own work obligations, he tries to push her away. Besides, her offer of help makes him feel like an invalid.
But Mickey is as stubborn as her father. In her mind, if she is going to spend time with her Dad, she wants something for the investment. Still hurt by the way he abandoned her as a child, the now 33 year-old woman probes for answers.
Her questions ignite a lot more swearing from the already perpetually cussing Gus, which even escalates to the use of a sexual expletive when a tipsy bar patron pesters Mickey for a dance. That same over-protectiveness leads to portrayals of beating and a threat with a broken beer bottle.
Viewers should note as well that characters frequently drink in social settings and to drown disappointments. Gus continually smokes a cigar. Mickey gets talked into stripping down to her t-shirt and panties to swim with her love interest (Justin Timberlake), who is also clad in just his underwear. (Naturally some kissing and embracing follows.) Young baseball hopefuls exchange some sexual remarks and crude banter. And a man is shown urinating (from behind).
This content likely won’t encourage family viewers, which is a shame considering the story is really all about parent/child relationships. Baseball merely provides a way to explore the deep need to resolve conflicts, even if they occurred during the early innings of the game. And thanks to a predictable plot and a less than subtle script, the messages of honest communication, priority setting, and rethinking prejudices aren’t likely to fly over the heads of any teens that might happen to be in the bleachers.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Trouble With The Curve.
How does Clint Eastwood’s depiction of Gus reflect his own stage of life? Would a younger man be as sympathetic to the issues of old age? How does an actor’s own experiences affect the way a character is portrayed? What other special interest groups get special attention in this movie?
How can the events of childhood continue with a person into their old age? What can parents do to lessen the baggage their children carry? What responsibilities do children have in building better relationships with their parents? What can be done if one of the parties in a conflict doesn’t want to reconcile?