TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE
SUBJECTS — Sports/Baseball;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Parenting; Father/daughter;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Caring.
AGE: 13+; MPAA Rating; PG-13 for language, sexual references, some thematic material, and smoking;
2012; 111 Minutes; Color. Available from Amazon.com.
MOVIE WORKSHEETS & STUDENT HANDOUTS
TWM offers the following worksheets to keep students’ minds on the movie and direct them to the lessons that can be learned from the film.
Teachers can modify the movie worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM’s Movies as Literature Homework Project.
An aging and temperamental baseball scout, who is losing his eyesight, has one final chance to prove that observation (through his ears and his daughter’s eyes) are better predictors of the future performance of a major league baseball prospect than the computer analysis of past performance favored by the manager of the team. A second major plot, intertwined with the baseball story involves the recovery of the scout’s estranged relationship with his daughter.
SELECTED AWARDS & CAST
Clint Eastwood as Gus Lobel; Amy Adams as Mickey Lobel; Justin Timberlake as Johnny Flanagan; Matthew Lillard as Phillip Sanderson; John Goodman as Pete Klein; Robert Patrick as Vince.
BENEFITS OF THE MOVIE
This is an entertaining sports/family dynamics story that will hold the interest of students and teach life lessons about family relationships.
Through assignments requiring research and reflection, students can exercise ELA writing skills while gaining insight into family dynamics as the movie analyzes the complex relationship between a father and his daughter.
If your children are interested in baseball, suggest that they watch Moneyball and discuss with them the difference in themes of the two movies. Are the techniques of evaluating players, computerized analysis of reams of data or personal observation exclusive or complimentary? Which is more important?
1. Describe how the characters of Gus and his daughter evolved and changed during the course of the story told by this movie.
The following concepts should be included in any discussion of this question. Gus learned that he needed to communicate with his daughter and accept her desire to be involved in sports. Mickey, with the new information that Gus described to her, forgave him for his past failures as a father. She realized that she wanted to be involved in baseball as either a manager/attorney for players or as a scout working with her father.
2. What are the lessons that the filmmakers are trying to communicate in this movie? There is a baseball message and a message about human relationships. Are they valid? Explain your response.
A full discussion of this question will include the following concepts. The baseball message is that there is a role for observation in the evaluation of baseball players and that team management shouldn’t rely only on statistics analyzed by computer programs. The human relationship message is that people in close relationships such as families must communicate with one another or else there will be serious problems. In this case, Gus and his daughter were estranged for many years due to Gus’ inability to describe to his daughter why he sent her away.
3. Evaluate Gus as a father.
There are two points about this topic that should come up in a full discussion. Gus sent his daughter away because he could not give her proper supervision when he was on the road. The question is whether Gus should have changed jobs so that he could take better care of his daughter rather than send his daughter away. This is a complex question and there is no one answer. Different parents have answered this question in different ways; some deciding to be with their children even if they have to change jobs. Others, like Gus, keeping their jobs and making adjustments in the way that they raised their children. In each case parents must balance their need for self-realization in the job that they love against their responsibilities to their child. For example, what would have happened to Gus if, in addition to losing his beloved wife, he had lost his beloved career? However, even if it was the right thing for Gus as the parent to stay on as a scout and send his daughter away, he had an obligation to make sure she understood that he still loved her and to visit and to call or write to her frequently. Gus didn’t do this. Later, when Mickey was older, Gus could have explained to her why he had sent her away. He didn’t do this either, until the events related in the movie.
4. If Gus would listen to you, what advice would you give to him about what he should do next in his career?
The following concepts should be included in any discussion of this question. Gus can’t do the job of a scout completely because of the deteriorating eyesight. If he cannot get his eyes fixed, he needs to retire or do something else. For example, he could become a consultant to other scouts or he could teach scouting techniques or he could write a book about scouting or about his life as a scout. There is a lot he could do, but in each case he needs to take account of the fact that his eyesight was failing.
5. Despite the fact that Gus is belligerent and stubborn, viewers of the film hope for his success. For what reasons does he deserve loyalty?
Gus is a brilliant scout who represents the old values that made baseball into a national pastime; he is determined and, ultimately, correct in his decision. When he sings at his wife’s gravesite, his grief tends to excuse his cranky demeanor. Also, viewers come to understand why he abandoned the task of raising his daughter.
6. What is distasteful about the new attitude toward scouting, shown by team management toward Gus?
Answers will vary: On an emotional basis, the team manager is arrogant. He is also wrong to rely on only one approach to evaluating a player.
7. Evaluate Gus as a parent to his daughter when she was growing up.
He wasn’t too great. He sent her away after her mother died when she needed to be with him. He didn’t call, write or visit very often. He allowed his own grief and pain to interfere with this obligation to parent his daughter, or at least communicate with her. One could go on and on.
8. It could be said that there were three antagonists in this movie. Who or what were they?
They were (1) the manager who wanted to get rid of Gus and use the only computer generated statistical studies; (2) the movement among many managers in baseball to use computer-generated statistical studies rather than observation by scouts; and (3) parts of Gus’ personality that denied the effects of old-age and were uncommunicative.
PARENTING & FATHER/DAUGHTER
See Question #s 1 – 3 in the Learning Guide.
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS (CHARACTER COUNTS)
Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.
(Be kind; Be compassionate and show you care; Express gratitude; Forgive others; Help people in need)
See Question # 3 in the Learning Guide.
ASSIGNMENTS, PROJECTS & ACTIVITIES
Any of the discussion questions can serve as a writing prompt. Additional assignments include:
1. Research Sabermetrics, the name for the system of evaluating baseball players through computerized examinations of their past performance, and write a formal opinion essay in which you take a position, for or against, the following statement: The human factors in sports, such as those seen in Gus’s scouting skills, are more important than the data-driven assessments used in Sabermetrics.
2. Imagine that you are a film critic for a major newspaper. Write a critique of the movie Trouble with the Curve. Be sure to support your conclusions with evidence and logical arguments.
3. Imagine that you are a sports reporter for a major newspaper. Using the facts described in Trouble with the Curve write an article with the headline, “Braves General Manager Phil Sanderson Fired”. You may also make up some facts if you need to fill in the details. The article should include references to the following persons and their role in the incident that lead up to the firing: Gus Lobel, Mickey Lobel, Johnny Flanagan, Pete Klein, Bo Gentry, Rigo Sanchez, and Vince (the owner of the team). Pick a last name for Vince; this character is not given one in the movie.
4. Watch the film Moneyball and answer the questions in the “Film Study Worksheet for a Work of Historical Fiction.” Then write an essay comparing “Moneyball” to Trouble With the Curve in terms of the message each film provides about how to pick baseball players and relations between fathers and daughters.
5. Watch the film Moneyball and answer the questions in the “Film Worksheet for a Work of Historical Fiction.” In both movies, Trouble with the Curve and Moneyball, relationships between fathers and daughters are clearly important. Write character studies of both Gus and Billy Beane as presented in the movie in which you focus on the importance of their daughters both in terms of what the men are like and in terms of the stories told in the films.
Note to Teachers concerning assignments 4 & 5: Adapt the worksheet from TWM’s Film Study Worksheet for a Work of Historical Fiction. Think about whether to instruct students to respond to question #7 by Internet research using at least three separate sources.