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Film producer Robert Lorenz has produced all of Clint Eastwood's major movies in recent history and he makes his directorial debut with Trouble With The Curve. It's perhaps apt that he takes his first step up to the big leagues in a film about a baseball talent scout who seeks out new blood to nurture.
Eastwood hasn't just thrown Lorenz in the deep end, though. He has taken over the producing job his new director would normally handle, as well as being front and centre playing ageing scout Gus Lobel. Director of photography Tom Stern (J. Edgar, Gran Torino, Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River) remains behind the lens to complete a trio that have made a lot of pictures together.
The plot sees legendary Indiana Braves baseball scout Gus Lobel (Eastwood) - who can tell what kind of ball the pitcher threw just by the sound it makes on the bat - starting to lose his eyesight. Terrified of being benched for what could be the final innings of his season, Gus is joined on the road by his daughter (Amy Adams) as he follows a new young star. Along for the ride is one of Gus's former picks, injured pitcher Johnny Flanagan (Justin Timberlake), who is trying to make his way as a scout in the hope of eventually landing a job in the announcer's booth.
As Trouble With The Curve sluggishly starts to get going, it seems like some of Eastwood's skill might have rubbed off on Lorenz. The film's one strength is how beautiful it makes small town America look. Problem is, that success could - and most likely is - down to Stern's skill as a cinematographer.
Where things start to go wrong for Lorenz is in the script, which is low on drama and big on character. Writer Randy Brown is also making his feature film debut and aside from the baseball politics he crafts a classic tale of a dysfunctional relationship between a father and his daughter. It's slight, but you could say that about other Eastwood movies - the plot of Gran Torino being easy to describe in a single sentence, for example.
The difference seems to be that when Eastwood is behind the camera, it all comes together. The slow build relationships, the scenes where characters are given the time they need to grow, the plot spikes that hit home when they do occur - all of this is missing from Lorenz's film. What we're left with is the cinematic equivalent of a no-hitter, where the home team of Lorenz and Eastwood fail to score a single hit and the crowd is left to walk home wondering how such talent could produce such a disappointing result.