When a baseball movie is released, I am all in. When it is a true story that adds to the mix. As a lifelong passionate baseball fan (Dodgers), I love to analyze the moves by managers, watch young drafted players build their careers, and follow the drama of a baseball season and the move toward the playoffs.
Baseball is huge business. Vast sums are invested in players who may or may not deliver; in pitchers who may need Tommy John surgery; in players who might violate the performance enhancing drugs rules of the game.
So when a movie comes out and its premise is that a sports agent, desperate to re-establish his career, thinks up the apparently absurd idea of going to India to find pitchers in a country that is focused on cricket, the curiosity is irresistible.
Jon Hamm of Mad Men plays the agent, J.B. Bernstein, who left his sports agency firm to go out on his own. It did not work. He is on the verge of financial collapse. Enter the idea to go to India and find baseball’s next great pitcher.
The journey to India, the marketing techniques used by Bernstein, and the vast obstacles both cultural and language-based, highlight this extraordinary journey. It is a truly dramatic example of having an idea that is turned into reality in spite of the obstacles faced.
The other element of the story is Bernstein’s self-serving and self-indulgent focus on his own materialistic well-being and his exploitation of the athletes he chooses for his project.
The softening of this harsh side of his personality is built around a woman (Brenda played by Lake Bell) who is renting his guest house, practices medicine and shows him greater empathy and humanity toward others.
It turns out that 2 javelin throwers from India are chosen to come back to the United States and train to be major league pitchers. Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel initially have difficulty with pitching at the speed required, but when given a second tryout, they succeed.
The message of the film is that we can change from harsh and self-serving beings to empathetic and understanding individuals. It is also that dreams can become reality when you put in the work.
In fact, J.B. Bernstein actually walks away from a wealthy investor in his venture when the investor refuses to underwrite the 2 pitchers for a second try out. That was the new J.B., since the old J.B. would have given up on the 2 pitchers to satisfy his money source. And, the money source actually comes around in the end.
The film comes full cycle with J.B. building a true romance and marriage a family, while the 2 pitchers are signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates of the National League. Patel has been released by the Pirates after getting a shot in their minor league system, but Singh is still with that system pursuing his dream.
If this were not a true story, you would no doubt react that this is Hollywood at its best. In this case, we can say that it is truth being portrayed by Hollywood.
Jon Hamm overacts and may not have been the right choice for the role of the agent, Lake Bell is effective in showing him a more humane approach to life, and Suraj Sharma and Madhur Mittal play the 2 Indian pitchers with superb reality in their roles.
You must be sure to stay through the end credits, as the actual photos shown of the pitchers and the others involved in the film are heart-warming and give a sense of reality to a film that might raise doubt about the possibility of this happening if it were not a true story.
And, even if you are not a baseball fanatics I am, you will enjoy the story of human relationships and commitment to success that are messages going well beyond the baseball diamond.