The Phenom is a character-driven drama that focuses less on baseball and more on the characters.
Written and directed by Noah Buschel, The Phenom stars Johnny Simmons, Paul Giamatti, and Ethan Hawke.
Hopper (Simmons) had dreams of being a Major League pitcher since he was a child. He was pushed by an abusive father (Hawke) and is very close to reaching that breakthrough of becoming a promising Major League Baseball player but then he breaks down on the pitching mound. He’s sent to the minor leagues, where he hopes to find his way again.
Hopper turns to Dr. Mobley (Giamatti), a sports therapist with unorthodox ways. It’s there that the doctor urges Hopper to let go of his past in order to focus on the future. The past mainly being the abusive relationship with his father.
Hawke delivers a very fine performance as Hopper’s dad, Hopper Sr. It’s one that should be on every Oscar voter’s short list for consideration come awards season.
It’s a different type of sports movie and doesn’t really focus on the baseball side of things in as much as it focuses on the relationship side and how that plays into a career. While I personally hoped for more baseball and less drama, I’m not upset as I enjoyed what I saw.
Hopper can be seen as a stand-in for any promising prospect who starts out red-hot in their career and eventually reaches the point of breaking down. Maybe a Johnny Manziel type. Who knows.
Premiering at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, the indie baseball drama is currently available on video on demand and digital platforms.