“Brampton’s Own” is a wistful baseball romance that makes its home in the “impossible dream” futility of life in the minor leagues. It doesn’t offer many surprises, but a good cast and a few moments make it a perfectly watchable also-ran, much like the stuck-in the minors hero its story is about.
From its first moments, in a dark indoor batting cage, Aussie actor Alex Russell of “Carrie” and “The Host” makes a perfectly passable almost-big-leaguer. Dustin Kimmel has been chasing that goal for a dozen years in the minors.
He’s treated like the locker room sage, a Crash Davis for the Tacoma club where he tries to hide his years and keep hope alive among the younger, hotter prospects. It’s all about “the call up.”
Even his regular booty call (Riley Voelkel) knows that.
“This is my career. I could be called up at any minute. I have to be ready.”
It’s why he won’t commit to her, which he regards as “no big deal.”
“Any time someone says ‘It’s not a big deal’ it’s a big deal.”
It’s also why he didn’t keep in touch with his friends in the small town where he grew up, where his “Brampton’s Own” exploits, being drafted by the Mariners, etc., are still clippings on the wall in the one bar and few restaurants Brampton has held onto.
His mom (Jean Smart) is the one to remind him “You said you’d give this until you were 30.” His smart-mouthed sister (Spencer Grammer) isn’t hearing “I didn’t have a backup plan.”
“It’s called ‘life.’ Figure it out.”
So Dustin faces “retirement” and starting over, without a clue and without the high school sweetheart who waited and waited, gave up on her own dream of singer-songwriter fame and gave up on Dustin — eventually. Rachel (Rose McGiver, Tinkerbelle on TV’s “Once Upon a Time”) is about to marry the new town dentist.
There’s nothing for it but to hang with the one old friend, an older jock (Kevin Linehan) even more “stuck” that Dustin. He, too, had a Big League dream. Now he’s over 40, still drinking and wearing his 1995 letter jacket to let everybody know when his life peaked, and what little he has to cling to now.
“You can’t quit. I gotta LIVE through you, man!”
You should know where this is going from that brief description, though not necessarily where it’ll go after it gets there. Whatever its charms, “Brampton’s Own” lingers past its payoff, becoming less predictable in scenes that amount to an afterthought/epilogue to a well-worn tale about jocks put to pasture.
The grace notes come from little snippets of humor, Dustin’s “old man” status in a Twitter-crazed clubhouse, his efforts at hiding his bitter disappointment, his attempts to coach kids in the art of hitting when hitting was what kept him out of the bigs.
“You’re casting. You look like you’re fishing. Keep your hands in closer.”
McGiver gives the film its few real sparks, showing consequence and heartbreak in someone who’s falling for a man playing a game that keeps him thinking like a boy.
“Brampton’s Own,” like Brampton’s own, is stuck in a kind of limbo, not really grappling with direction, never quite figuring out where to go. The film doesn’t find easy resolutions, though you get the impression first time feature writer/director Michael Doneger was looking for them.
It’s too adult to be a “family” film, not edgy or gripping enough for grownups.
Watchable? Sure. But it’s watchable the way a baseball game involving teams long out of contention is still watchable. You’d rather be seeing a contender.
And unlike baseball, in movies there’s no “There’s always next year.”
MPAA Rating: unrated, profanity
Credits: Written and directed by Michael Doneger. A Dark Star release.
Running time: 1:30