The Phenom (2016)

Directed by Noah Buschel
Country: USA

I’ve no doubts about the value of Noah Buschel as a film director and a writer. Despite somewhat underrated, he gave us interesting movies such as the indie romantic drama “Sparrows Dance” and the crime thriller “Glass Chin”.
His latest, however, didn’t thrill me much. 
“The Phenom” is a sports psychodrama that showcases great performances from Ethan Hawke, Paul Giamatti, and Johnny Simmons, but leaves something to be desired in the end.

The film is presented with constant ups and downs during the irregular narrative structure, regardless the solid psychological fundament and emotional weight that we can find in the cheerless story of Hopper Gibson (Simmons), a rookie Major League Baseball pitcher who, despite seen as a big promise, is sent to the minor leagues due to his increasingly poor performances.

Dr. Mobley (Giamatti), a maverick sports psychoanalyst, is appointed to get him fixed and withdraw some conclusions. He easily understands that Hopper’s anguish comes from his overbearing father, Hopper Sr. (Hawke), an ex-con and drug dealer of very bad reputation.
Hopper was motivated and in good shape during the time his father was away. He listened carefully the advice of the coach and was more available to his wise girlfriend, Dorothy (Sophie Kennedy Clark), who loved him very much. This scenario changes completely after his dad’s return. From then on, the joy of throwing a strike gives place to apathy, failure, and embarrassment.

Weirdly, the analyst became analyzed and, apparently, there’s not much more to be said about Hopper’s case.
It’s a shame the film didn’t take a more satisfying course because it had the potential to do so.
Whenever present, Ethan Hawke is the one who keeps this well-directed drama alive, but the script and narrative needed to be strongly shaped to make the difference.