“If you only do what comes easy to you, what you are good at, you are just an untrained thoroughbred, which isn’t a race horse at all. It’s a wild animal.”
Directed by Noah Buschel, The Phenom is an interesting “sports” movie. It doesn’t focus on the physical aspects of baseball but more of the psychology of it and what runs through the mind of a young baseball player with the spotlight on him. The story is about a major league pitcher who has lost control over his pitching and he is sent down to the minor leagues. He begins to have therapy sessions with a sports psychologist and during these events, the story of his past starts to unfold.
I was able to feel empathy with John Simmons’s character Hopper Gibson. He made me cry and made me feel angry at the same time. He was just a young man trying to gain that acceptance from his old man and it kinda hits home for me. Ethan Hawke as Hopper Sr. is a scary man but in a weird way, he wants to see his son succeed in life especially in baseball. The performances were fantastic and this movie is character driven for sure. I thought about the camera work as well. It had a lot of long, still shots, sometimes with a slow push-in (especially on Gianatti). I need to watch it again to really pay attention to it, but I think it was done extremely well and not what I was expecting.
Even with the strong character performances, the movie is lacking a plot. But to me it wasn’t such a big deal. Also, I would have loved to see more of the baseball side. I wanted to see him pitch some more, see him play during a game, his thoughts during the game, and to take that into his therapy sessions and weave it into his dad etc. The movie also ends very abruptly and I was shocked about it.
Overall, The Phenom is a fantastic movie into the mind of a baseball player. While it is lacking on the physical aspect from other sports films, it is makes up for it with strong performances from the entire cast. It reminds me a lot of Good Will Hunting and Whiplash. Check out this hidden gem on Netflix and VOD. SuperSam Rating: A.