A minor-leaguer confronts the end of his baseball dreams in Michael Doneger’s coming-home picture.
At what point does pushing to make your dreams come true stop being heroic and become sad? A triple-A baseball player starts to accept his family’s verdict in Brampton’s Own, Michael Doneger’s light drama of giving up and going back home. A likable performance by Alex Russell, as the would-be major leaguer, is the main draw here, but Doneger’s overly familiar script doesn’t give the S.W.A.T. actor much to deal with. Even baseball fans may feel neglected, as the sport is more an offscreen rival to possible romance than a driving force for the pic.
Russell’s Dustin has plugged away with the Tacoma Rainiers for over a decade, practicing his swing and waiting to get called up to the majors. When he set out, he said he’d only give up if he remained a minor-leaguer at 30; now that birthday is at hand, and the season ends without him getting the call. Reluctantly, at the urging of his mother Judy (Jean Smart), he packs up his gear and returns to his childhood home.
As so often happens in these tales, home isn’t what it used to be. Widowed Judy has been seeing Bart (John Getz), a man Dustin knows nothing about, and is clearing out all her son’s keepsakes so she can sell the house and move in with him. Dustin has to wallow a bit, rescuing his memories from the curb while befriending Bart’s precocious pre-teen son Cody (Carter Hastings). It takes no time for the enthusiastic kid (winningly played by Hastings) to view Dustin as something of a role model, taking his advice in the batting cage and his less-sage tips on talking to girls.
Turns out, Dustin is better at getting a date than at being in a relationship. He delusionally expects that Rachel (Rose McIver), the girlfriend he left behind for baseball, will be his for the taking now that he has deigned to return. But she’s seriously involved with the little town’s new dentist, and wants no part of Dustin’s attempts to charm her. Or maybe she does: The script rather unconvincingly has her zip through a couple of cycles of pushing Dustin away and inviting him back. At one point, she insists that he come to meet her at a diner in another town, where they won’t be seen by neighbors — only to lay down the law, saying that nothing’s going to happen between them. Yeah, right.
Playing that dentist, Friday Night Lights‘ Scott Porter is one of a couple of indications (Mitchell Owens’ Americana-tinted score is another) that Doneger hopes to follow in that show’s footsteps, marrying relationship and family drama with lump-in-throat feelings about sports. But while the film effectively captures Dustin’s ambivalence and melancholy about giving up on baseball, the love story isn’t nearly persuasive, and Dustin’s core failure as a person — that he ignored all those he should have loved while pursuing a career — just feels like a device lifted from bigger sports dramas.
Production companies: Cloverhill Pictures, Perspective Productions
Distributor: Dark Star Pictures
Cast: Alex Russell, Rose McIver, Carter Hastings, Kevin Linehan, Jean Smart, John Getz, Spencer Grammer, Scott Porter
Director-Screenwriter: Michael Doneger
Producers: Mark DiCristofaro, Michael Doneger
Executive producer: Shaun Sanghani
Director of photography: Kieran Murphy
Production designer: Justin Slade McClain
Costume designer: Dorothy Amos
Editor: Brad McLaughlin
Composer: Mitchell Owens
Casting directors: Jordan Bass, Lauren Bass