JB Bernstein is at the end of his rope. He’s had a slick car, a stylish house, and a smooth living as a sports agent, but with clients losing interest, it’s all begun to fall apart. As his last big opportunity slips through his fingers, JB faces defeat. Yet even if it’s only a façade, he has hope for the future — hope that manifests itself in the form of a competition called Million Dollar Arm.
Such is the setup for the film of the same name, which features Jon Hamm as the aforementioned JB Bernstein. Based on a true story, Million Dollar Arm tells the tale of Bernstein’s last-ditch effort to travel to India, recruit two cricket players, and teach them American baseball in the hopes of making them MLB stars. Of course, the plan doesn’t go exactly as he expected (because let’s be honest, if it did, there’d be no movie). Yet, with every hitch in the works, from finding out that the two kids JB thinks are “cricket masters” have never even played cricket to the (somewhat forced) decision to let them stay in his home rather than at a hotel, JB comes closer and closer to realizing something he never could have without these boys.
The emotional crux of this film lies right there, when JB finally comes to a moment of true self-understanding. After a few failures with making the full Million Dollar Arm scheme work, it hits him that he’s been going about his life all wrong. He comes to terms with the fact that he’s been pushing away the people who care about him — Rinku and Dinesh (the two boys whom he hopes to groom into baseball stars), his best friend Aash, and his tenant Brenda — in favor of pursuing his career. As that career starts to unravel, JB comes to learn that in order to truly be happy, he must focus not only on the daily grind of his job and what it can get him, but on the people who are there for him when he gets home from it.
In many ways, Million Dollar Arm asks its audience to do the same as JB and take a look at our priorities. The movie does its best to remind us that in spite of the immense value our culture places on getting rich, money isn’t everything. Yet, in today’s world, this message certainly fights against a strong current, with plenty of other media trying to convince us of the exact opposite. Take, for example, films like Wolf of Wall Street, or even The Social Network. Movies like these showcase making it to “the top” at the expense of friendships, relationships, and caring for others in general. They emphasize financial success at any cost (though, to be fair, the final scene of The Social Network briefly touches on the fact that said “victory” may not have been worth it). We are living in a society that sees the ultimate goal, the best “happy ending” of a success story, as achieving wealth — the sprawling mansion, fancy car, and millions in the bank are perpetually shown as the key to happiness.
Yet, wealth can be devastated in one fell swoop, and if we let all of our happiness depend on such things, what happens when the bills begin to stack up? Even when our fortunes fail, we have our friends and family and the relationships we’ve fostered. These relationships are the true measure of our success, more than anything we can put in a bank. While it’s certainly nice to have a good job and some money saved up, we shouldn’t strive for these things at the expense of the people who matter in our lives. The overarching truth behind Million Dollar Arm, particularly poignant with Father’s Day just around the corner, is quite simple: go and spend some time with the people you love. Even if you’ve got a busy schedule, make space to be with the ones you love (and who love you!). As JB learns with Rinku and Dinesh, a little bit of togetherness and support can make all the difference in the world.