When major-league rookie pitcher Hopper Gibson (Johnny Simmons) can’t find the plate, he’s sent down to the minor leagues and begins sessions with an unorthodox sports psychologist (Paul Giamatti). In the process, hidden conflicts with his overbearing father (Ethan Hawke) are brought to light.
The Phenom unfolds as a series of quiet, incisive conversations that showcase subtle, insightful performances.
The picture’s strength is in its honesty.
A welcome surprise for sports cinema, The Phenom handles itself like Robert Redford’s “Ordinary People” when exploring the psychology of a Lebron James or Johnny Manziel-like sports sensation.
If there’s an MVP, it’s Simmons. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” alum tosses off another subdued performance, a good counterpart to Hawke’s more over-the-top coiled rage.
Writer-director Noah Buschel (he was behind the Corey Stoll boxing drama “Glass Chin”) has crafted an odd little film that is sometimes compelling, sometimes maddening.
Slow and talky but suffused with insight and intelligence, the film is another noteworthy effort from the writer/director of such intriguing if unfortunately little-seen dramas as Glass Chin and Sparrows Dance.
The director and writer, Noah Buschel, has no fresh insights to add to the well-worn dynamic and doesn’t give the actors or the audience much to work with.