Film Review | Million Dollar Arm
Directed by Craig Gillespie, Million Dollar Arm is a heart-warming and well-told tale that remains appealing in spite of its unsubtlety, and you certainly don’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy it.
Based on a true story, Million Dollar Arm focuses on J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm), a floundering sports agent who is in desperate need of a big signing. Late night channel-flipping between a cricket match and Susan Boyle’s ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ brings inspiration (as it so often does) and soon Bernstein is journeying to India to host a talent competition that will determine which would-be cricketers have the best chance at being groomed into baseball players. Returning to America with the contest winners Rinku Singh (Life of Pi’s Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh Patel (Madhur Mittal) in tow, the two prospects soon begin training under unorthodox coach Tom House (Bill Paxton), but have difficulty mastering both the game and American culture.
Though it’s almost obligatory, the fish-out-of-water element is funny more often than not, particularly once the contest victors arrive in the US. That said, the portion of the movie set in India is by far and away the film’s best segment. Not only does Gillespie effectively capture the energy and spirit of the country, but in only a short amount of time it’s understood how much of a big deal it is for Rinku and Dinesh to leave their home. It’s such a well-played moment that for a second you almost wish the focus was more on the Indians’ journey as opposed to Hamm’s Jerry Maguire-like sports agent.
Speaking of the Mad Men star, Hamm is never less than comfortable in the lead role, modulating between smooth talking agent with a good heart and self-centred snob with ease and charm. It’s the exceptional supporting cast that really make this a winner though, and they all manage to add something to what could easily have been bland archetypal roles. As Bernstein’s love interest Brenda for instance, Lake Bell makes excellent use of her screen time and though it’s never in doubt where the two characters will end up by the time the credits roll, both performances are natural enough that the tender moments between them feel earned. Alan Arkin also regularly amuses as an unconventional scout, whilst Mittal and Sharma are both suitably earnest and endearing as the two Indian hopefuls.
Though it doesn’t offer much by way of freshness, Million Dollar Arm is about as enjoyable as a predictable film gets, thanks to a feel good mix of genuine heart and wit.
This review was originally published at HeyUGuys.