The Program Review | TIFF 2015

Ben Foster in The Program

When it was discovered that Lance Armstrong had been taking performance-enhancing drugs when he won his several Tour de France medals, there must have been some exterior impact on people in his life. Or even an impact upon himself. Stephen Frears’sĀ The ProgramĀ is not about any of that. Lacking humanity for its main character, the film plays as a hatefully written overview of Armstrong’s career minus all the portions of his life that would make him look decent.

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Review – Trouble with the Curve

Trouble with the Curve Theatrical Poster

Title: Trouble with the Curve
Genre(s): Drama, Sports
Director(s): Robert Lorenz
Release Year: 2012
: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A

Sports dramas, and particularly baseball dramas, are generally the type of films that generate the most emotional response from viewers. Field of Dreams and The Rookie come to mind right away. Baseball dramas have definitely faded into the background in recent years though. Then came Moneyball, an excellent film that was perhaps one of the more logistical approaches to the baseball movie, but also contained an emotional core. Perhaps that’s why I enjoyed Moneyball as much as I did, because it interested and engaged. It really wasn’t until Moneyball that I saw something within the sports genre that could satisfy me, since up to that point I had never really found sports films to be very enjoying, most filled with contrived happiness. In Trouble with the Curve, I hoped for the same enjoyment I got out of Moneyball but now I see that the sports genre really just isn’t for me.

Trouble with the Curve looks at Gus (Clint Eastwood), a scout for the Atlanta Braves who refuses to accept the new ways of approaching baseball (looking at statistics and scouting from the office). In his old age, his eyesight is starting to deteriorate and so management sends Gus’s daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), in to help him out so he isn’t forced to retire when his contract expires. But Gus is a cranky man, who has a hard time expressing emotions that aren’t fueled by hate. This is where the film begins to shape itself like your typical drama. Gus won’t let Mickey into his life, and so through lots of fights and moments of bonding, they work through their issues. The film also introduces Justin Timberlake as Johnny Flanagan, a scout for the Boston Red Sox, once scouted by Gus himself a long time ago. Timberlake doesn’t necessarily break his conventional role, utilizing his charm like only he can, but he definitely adds to the film by providing a relationship with Mickey that transcends the problems with the film. The relationship between those two is done much better than that of Gus and Mickey, which can really only be attributed to the chemistry between Adams and Timberlake.

I’m just as angry and confused as you are Clint, don’t worry.

The script is generic, and some of the dialogue is painfully cheesy, but Amy Adams gives a great performance. Eastwood doesn’t do anything astounding, he just plays cranky old guy. Which is a shame since he is ultimately supposed to be the main character, and even some of his plot lines are never fully resolved. His eyesight is addressed as a concern throughout the film, but never is it remedied. We don’t see Gus having any epiphany where he should take better care for himself, so we can’t assume that he gets his eyes fixed. In the end, it even seems like people are willing to let him continue doing whatever he likes, despite his bad eyesight. Which is odd because the film could have just added a quick piece of dialogue insinuating he would get his eyes fixed, since it was able to wrap up everything in a quick final 10 minutes, just banging out happy ending after happy ending.

The title Trouble with the Curve, believe it or not, has both a literal and figurative meaning in this film. This is very apparent once the film takes a massive dark turn that I’m not going to spoil, but it involves some pretty taboo stuff and explains why Gus was never there for Mickey when she was a child. It’s foreshadowed through some dream sequences and visions that Gus has, but is handled very poorly. The problem this film has though is what I mentioned previously, cheesy dialogue, and a lack of focus on the character that the movie both starts and ends with. Seriously, that and the fact that Timberlake’s character gets mad and then comes back out of nowhere 10 minutes later just to dole out a happy ending is absurd.

But Matthew Lillard gets to be a complete asshole to Clint Eastwood and John Goodman, so that makes up for something, right?

None of the endings really feel deserved by the end of the film, and it seemed more like the script could have had a more depressing ending, but no one in charge was willing to go down too dark a path. It teases a moment of it losing its happy vibe, then just backs out soon afterwards. That’s where this film really shows its faults. Its tone isn’t consistent, and despite its many happy endings, what about Clint Eastwood’s eyes? Are we to believe that he can continue working as a baseball scout without vision? I’m baffled at how that didn’t get resolved. Then the awkward moments of Eastwood singing to himself, and Adams singing completely out of the blue just make no sense. It is your typical sports drama though, and if you’re okay with cop out endings and main characters leaving the foreground so as to develop a relationship that matters less than the main one, then this will be right up your alley. For those who aren’t, there’s always Moneyball to watch.
Overall: Not Recommended