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million_dollar_armMILLION DOLLAR ARM
Written by Thomas McCarthy
Directed by Craig Gillespie
Starring Jon Hamm, Lake Bell and Alan Arkin

Ray: We call him the flamingo.

If I wasn’t told right off the bat that MILLION DOLLAR ARM was a true story, I’m not sure I would have believed that it was. A man who has been living large but who has fallen on hard times, decides to organize a nationwide reality competition in India, to find the best cricket players in hopes of turning them into Major League Baseball players, in a final effort to salvage his career. It sounds insane but the even crazier part is that he pulls it off. (I do not consider that a spoiler, but the way, as this is clearly a feel good movie and again, it is based on fact.) As mind boggling and inspiring as this all is though, the implausibility of it all is somehow transformed into a fairly conventional, fairly facile film. All the same, I still cried a little. Ok, I cried a little twice.

Jon Hamm (or as you know him, Don Draper) plays JB Bernstein, or as he is more widely known in the film, JB Sir. Bernstein is on the cusp of signing a major football player to his independent management firm, Seven Figures Management, a none too subtle name if I’ve ever seen one. When that falls through, Bernstein has to think outside of the box to save himself from losing his expensive house, his expensive car, his expensive lifestyle – basically every status symbol he thought was important, up until now. His creative thinking takes him so far outside the box that it takes him to India. His mission is to put together a competition program that finishes with the winners trying out for a Major League Baseball team in the United States. It is clear from the moment they appear on screen who the winners will be (played by SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE’s Madhur Mittal and LIFE OF PI’s Suraj Sharma) but it was never really about the contest or winning it. It was always about the journey and what was learned along the way. It just takes JB a little longer to learn this lesson than everyone else.


With Thomas McCarthy (THE VISITOR) writing the screenplay and Craig Gillespie (LARS AND THE REAL GIRL) directing, I did hope that MILLION DOLLAR ARM would not fall prey to the doldrums of mainstream moviemaking. While the film does feature many a cliched take on Indian culture and while it does follow a very traditional path throughout, it still manages to find its soul along the way. McCarthy’s screenplay may not surprise anyone but it also goes a long way toward giving these characters real humanity; and Gillespie’s direction, while visually straight forward at all times, does pull some very genuine emotion from the cast (including Lake Bell as Bernstein’s love interest and talent scout, Alan Arkin, in what may have been the easier role he has ever played). The Million Dollar Arm contest was always looking for the juice or the heat in its contestants. The MILLION DOLLAR ARM movie doesn’t really have either of those things but it definitely has enough heart to make up for it.

3.5 sheep

Your turn!

How many sheep would you give Million Dollar Arm?


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