Thursday, May 29, 2014

Million Dollar Arm

Putting Priorities Right
By Jan McClure

Movie Review of
Million Dollar Arm

Director: Craig Gillespie
Cast: John Hamm, Bill Paxton, Suraj Sharma, Madhur Mittal,
Aasif Mandvi, Lake Bell, Alan Arkin, Pitobash

Million Dollar Arm is a feel-good movie. At the end of the film, some of the audience clapped, and I found myself feeling good and smiling.  The movie is based on the true story of two 18-year-old boys who were discovered in a reality TV contest in India.  During the credits, photos and video from the originating story were shown, giving credibility to the movie.

JB Bernstein (played by Jon Hamm) was a failing sports agent. He and his business partner, Ash, (played by Aasif Mandvi) were at the end of their rope as to how to save their business. One day, while JB was desperately contemplating what to do to save their company, he began flipping TV channels between the British version of American Idol, which showed Susan Boyle, and the sports game cricket. This inspired the idea of searching for talent in India amongst cricket players and convert them to baseball.

Of course the movie does not give credit to the Holy Spirit, but I always call these moments "Holy Spirit Ideas". The Lord will plant ideas in my head when I finally ask for God's help, and many times it is in desperation. In the Bible, it says that if we ask the Lord in humility or desperation, he will hear us and answer our prayer. I tried to find it and couldn’t, so I “googled” it and was amazed at how many verses they listed (about 15, which is probably not all of them). These are just a few of the verses listed: Jeremiah 33:3, Psalm 145:19, Psalm 9:12, Matthew 14:30-31, and Matthew 8-25).

Needless to say, JB created a talent show in India, and the movie lets us watch the underdog story unfold. We see a self-absorbed and materialistic JB. His current goals in life are to be successful, earn lots of money, have models for girlfriends, and basically only care about how he is going to continue to keep this up.

While in India, JB finds two young talents, Rinku (played by Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh (Mahur Mittal). As they prepare to leave their families to head to America, we are shown how sad their families are. JB cannot understand why they wouldn’t want their sons to have a chance at success.  Vivek, his business partner in India (played by Darshan Jariwala), points out to JB that he has a huge responsibility to help these young men continue their prayer lives and their connections to their families and culture. JB instead focuses on what he wants to show them regarding what success will bring. (I loved the line where the kids are amazed that JB doesn’t take time out for prayer.) 

The movie shows the poverty levels and the simplicity of many Indian families. I felt sad thinking of how their lives would be changed after exposure to Western civilization and how many of the families couldn’t understand why having more was better. 

JB’s tenant, Brenda (played by Lake Bell), becomes his confidant and love interest. She is a medical school student and is focused on people instead of materialism.  When things begin to go awry, she points out that Rinku and Dinesh are not objects to be used but are human beings.  As JB starts to become aware of the boys’ needs, we see his focus change.  He puts his disordered life into a godly order, and amazingly things turn around, which is always God’s plan for us: We need to put things in the right order.

Towards the end of the film (spoiler alert), talent scout Ray (played by Alan Arkin) takes JB to a restaurant and tries to lead him to a solution. JB resists.  He doesn’t see what the plan is, and he is not really listening to what Ray has to say.  Then, lo and behold, sitting right next to him is the person that he needs to talk to in order to proceed successfully.

This scene reminded me that this is how the Holy Spirit works.  He is leading us.  He has the answer right in front of us and, unless we are listening or looking for it, we usually don’t see it.  Ray knew what was going to happen and wanted JB to just trust him.  Sometimes God has to place the answers right in front of us, because we are not aware that he is working and has the solution already in place.  Instead, we are so busy trying to figure out how to make it work on our own power.  Jesus says that apart from him we can do nothing (John 15:5).

This movie had a lot of humor and a lot of life lessons in it.  We get to see the transformation of JB.  It is a conversion story; although the movie doesn’t give God the credit, we as Christians know Who to give the glory to

Questions for youth groups, families, and other small group discussions (and we hope you will post a comment below!):
  1. What is the right order of things that God wants us to focus on?
  2. Do you have a conversion story?  How did your focus change?
  3. How is success in this world different from the success that the Lord wants us to have?

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