A Good Bad Movie on the Hampton Ambassador Doesn’t Travel

A lot of the stories I write for this newspaper, particularly this time of year, are written on the Hampton Ambassador rather than on the beach. It’s too damn cold at the beach. And I can get good privacy on the bus in those comfortable seats heading into or back out from the city.

During the trip, though, there are movies shown on the Ambassador, sometimes pretty good ones, sometimes not. So I occasionally get waylaid. I get on board expecting to spend the two hours to the city writing a story. But then I don’t. I saw Argo on the Ambassador, for instance, and another time Silver Linings Playbook, even before it opened in the theatres.

Two weeks ago I saw the movie Trouble With the Curve starring Clint Eastwood. I like movies about baseball and I like Clint Eastwood. This, however, was not one of his big smash hits. I looked it up on Rotten Tomatoes on my phone before I made the decision. Half the film critics liked it, half didn’t. Half the moviegoers liked it, half didn’t. I was curious.

The movie is about an aging but highly respected baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves (played by guess who) sent to North Carolina to evaluate a prospect. Another part of the plot involves his relationship with his grown daughter (played by Amy Adams), who is a corporate lawyer in Atlanta on the brink of getting offered a partnership. They don’t get along, there’s much talk on the cellphone, but when she learns from his doctor he’s having trouble with his eyesight, she gets on a plane to help out in scouting the player and getting her father through the weekend. There’s much yelling at each other. Much of the movie takes place in a pool hall, or in motel rooms. Then, a rival scout from the Boston Red Sox arrives to look over the prospect. He’s played really well by Justin Timberlake.

I loved this movie. I had read on Rotten Tomatoes that it was utterly predictable—that you knew how it was going to end. That the movie was directed by Eastwood’s longtime assistant director and it was his debut and would probably be his last. But I didn’t care.  When the predictable ending happened, I wept with happiness, just as we entered the Midtown Tunnel. The three of them—Clint, Amy and Justin—dealt with their difficult emotional relationships with one another so well.

At our apartment that evening, I talked about the movie with my wife, telling her it was really lousy and predictable but it touched my heart and she said that’s nice.

The next day, my wife’s sisters arrived at our apartment. They are from a small town in western Pennsylvania where my wife grew up and sometimes we go there and sometimes they come east. It’s only an hour’s flight. They wanted to see the sights in the city over the weekend, and there was an important baby shower to go to, and so it was that just after dinner on the second day, I said everybody should see this movie I really liked, and I pulled out a copy of it I had bought earlier in the day at Best Buy. And so they, and my wife, being polite, sat down on the sofa.

“I told Chris about it,” I said, referring to my wife,  “and it’s really bad, but it’s really special. I don’t know why it’s special but it is. I think you’ll like it.”

I started the movie at 8:30 p.m. At 9:30 p.m., not even before one of the best parts, one of the sisters, Joanna, said she was going to call it a night and went off to bed. The other sister, Stephanie, stayed on through to the end, but I saw she wasn’t laughing or crying through the best parts of any of it. I began to feel embarrassed that I’d kind of made them watch it. I have no social graces. The movie ended. Stephanie had stayed through it.

“How did you like it?” I asked Stephanie.

“Okay,” she said. “I’ve seen better.”

Tears were rolling down my cheeks. I liked it even better the second time. My wife had gone off somewhere.

I wonder if this had something to do with having seen this on the bus. Here we were, a bus full of people, special, all of us, in this way, enjoying this private screening, some with our earphones in, listening to the sound, some not interested in it and missing out. Come to think of it, there was no congratulating or high-fiving with anybody when they rolled the credits. And I did notice that when we pulled up onto Third Avenue that several people were asleep.

Anybody want a used DVD of Trouble With the Curve?


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