Phoenix Oregon is one of the cluster of films in 2020 to not only look at male vulnerability but have it as the central focus of the entire film. It is still rare to see it on screen and yet so necessary, because representation matters, in order to understand we need to see it.
Phoenix Oregon tells the story of friends Bobby (a powerful performance by James LeGros) and Carlos (Jesse Borrego) who set up a bowling alley using their limited life savings. However, the beating heart of this film is Bobby’s identity crisis, how did he get here. I hesitate to say mid life crisis because I suspect Bobby was probably suffering an identity crisis since he left high school.
The film works because of the central performance by James LeGros. He portrays his character with such tenderness that the audience doesn’t look at Bobby as someone who has failed at life but rather, a man who just wants a chance. The script does have holes and some things are left unexplained and not all the supporting characters are fully formed. The guy who comes to fix the bowling machines feels rather two dimensional and pastiche of every oddball character you’ve ever seen on screen. The love story element feels unnecessary as if it was added as an afterthought in order to make this film more appealing. It didn’t need romantic love, it was enough to just follow Booby’s journey of self love and his other passion, bowling.
Phoenix Oregon is, for the most part, an enjoyable film but that is largely down to James LeGros’s performance. There are also a lot of laughs to be had. It should be supported because we need more stories showing men in vulnerable states and stories that focus on middle aged individuals which is something we aren’t seeing enough of on screen.
Stream Phoenix Oregon today.