The Phenom | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Phenom

A low-key drama about a baseball hot shot exploring the roots of his performance anxiety


There’s a lot of cheering of championship sports teams right now, but writer-director Noah Buschel’s low-key drama looks at a less-explored and darker aspect of professional sports. Hopper Gibson (Johnny Simmons) is a hot new prospect in baseball’s major leagues, but an anxiety attack on the mound gets him busted down to the minors — and date with a specialized “yips” therapist (Paul Giamatti). These sessions initiate a series of flashbacks where we see that Gibson’s “golden” days of being a star student athlete were inextricably tied up with the pressures imposed by his erratic and domineering father (Ethan Hawke). The work is somewhat slight — though the actors all hit their marks well — and the ending is abrupt. Still, it’s a more interesting subject matter than yet another generic inspirational sports film.

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