In the almost-bottle episode ‘The Suitcase,” perhaps the-triumph-known-as-Mad Men’s greatest triumph – the hour that will likely be mentioned first in Jon Hamm obituaries when he passes away hopefully many decades from now – Don Draper shouts the now infamous put-down to his subordinate, Peggy Olsen, who pleads for some gratitude for the hard work she does. Maybe a thank you, maybe some genuine kindness.
Imagine the incongruity, then, of seeing the actor behind one of television’s most famous (and dismissive) lines starring in the second underdog sports movie of the year – Million Dollar Arm, with the business concerns right there in the title, following Kevin Costner’s Draft Day – that focuses on sports’ least likely underdogs: the money men.
This is a particularly intriguing trend to track in the weeks preceding and following the revelation that, all this time, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers has an been eerily human-looking reptile who holds an updated plantation manor mentality. (And make no mistake: post Moneyball, it’s a certifiable trend; you may site 42 as a counterexample, but that film is, looked upon unkindly but logically, the story of Branch Rickey’s benevolence, brought on by white guilt, enabling the strong-willed Robinson.) Essentially, a man sitting in the front office of one of the most incompetent franchises ever was revealed not just to be an incompetent manager but also to be a man who believes that the millions he pays basketball players entitle him carte blanche to humiliate them in the locker room and treat their race like lesser beings. In short, to be an incompetent man.
So, yeah… a movie about a kindly, doddering General Manager of a long-floundering franchise risking his entire draft to give a disenfranchised black athlete a huge payday in spite of every business and football bone in his body yelling “Not wise!” seems like a preemptive PR amelioration from a class of now embattled sports figures – the rich white men who determine the fate of athletes in negotiations and board meetings – that couldn’t have had any idea that Donald Sterling would be kneecapping their not-exactly sterling reputations, but had a contingency plan ready anyway. A feeling not helped at all by the fact that Draft Day is made with the NFL’s complete cooperation (and presumably, its right to say no to certain details that might tarnish its image); the film even features a cameo from the commish himself.
It used to be that it was the athletes in sports films who had the chutzpah to go out there and make things happen. Remember Rudy? Remember Rocky? If it wasn’t an athlete, it was a coach. Remember Remember the Titans and Hoosiers? At least it was somebody whose shoes touched the grass on the field, or squeaked on the hardwood. That – in the midst of a unionization struggle that is rocking college athletics, and in the very month that the NBA forcibly removed an owner for making comments that revealed a remarkable streak of racial hatred which went unchecked for decades until it became untenable to ignore anymore – nothing seems more en vogue right now than the idea of the businessman as sports movie protagonist is nothing short of the deepest 20,000 Leagues irony possible.
When it comes to the fairly daffy (and yet still bland) Draft Day, I like to imagine what the press conference must have been like for Browns’ GM Sonny Weaver Jr. after doing the following in one bonkers day:
- Trading away the seventh pick (which Sonny secretly plans to spend on fierce sack-monster Vontae Mack, who everyone else values as a mid-first rounder) as well as his first round picks in the next two drafts to Seattle for a chance to draft Totes-Not-Johnny-Manzeil with the first pick.
- Turning his franchise quarterback Brian Drew into a panicky flight risk, essentially admitting to the world he’ll give up on a quality veteran performer after one non-career ending injury.
- Drafting Mack, who he could have grabbed with the 15th pick, with the 1st freaking pick because his gut says Not-Johnny, who might have maybe kind of sort of vaguely but maybe not had some ego issues at Wisconsin, won’t work for him and Mack, who has heart and two adorable nephews to raise, will.
- Inadvertently scaring the whole league – which was enamored with Not-Johnny only five minutes prior to Weaver’s insane decision – off of Not-Johnny, allowing Weaver to bamboozle a first-time Jaguars GM (oh the Jaguars…) into trading their sixth overall pick for some second round scraps.
- While mirthful laughter rings out from the war room, using the sixth pick as a bluff (“I’m gonna take Not-Johnny, I swear I will!”) that Seattle, who now desperately wants Not-Johnny because he costs less (yeah… no…), calls, trading back all of the picks they got earlier, plus a talented kick returner, and all their dignity to the triumphant Sonny Weaver Jr.!
REPORTER: Sonny, you’re the talk of the league! You went from looking like a madman to a mad genius in one roller coaster hour! We have to know, what was going on behind the scenes?
SONNY: I spread the ashes of my father, Browns legend Sonny Weaver, around the practice field named after him. I had many heart-to-hearts about a surprise pregnancy with my girlfriend Ali in a utility closet. I apologized to my new intern Whatsisname for throwing his computer, which I feel was very nice of me to do. Oh and I saw my ex-wife for a bit. Not sure why she stopped by…
REPORTER: None of what you said had anything to do with football, Mr. Weaver.
SONNY: Football? Oh right! The draft was today! I kept forgetting that. I was dealing with a lot and didn’t have a lot of time to think about the draft – it would have been easier if I’d just gone with what I scrawled to myself on a scrap of paper this morning while my girlfriend Ali was trying awkwardly to discuss our incumbent child: “Vontae Mack no matter what.” And I wrote next to that in invisible ink “Even if you have the first pick and could acquire countless valuable pieces in exchange for that pick while still taking Mack fourteen picks later.” So that was my plan, but then these other GMs would call me about wanting to trade and stuff, which is so annoying, because I really just wanted to have a pretty calm day free of football talk.
REPORTER: You mention wanting to pick Vontae with the seventh pick. What made you change your mind and trade away future picks to enter the Bo Callahan sweepstakes?
SONNY: Everyone yelled at me a whole lot! I thought being GM in Cleveland would be easy, but it turns out the fans here really like sports and feel really let down by them at the same time, for some reason. When the Seattle GM made me feel bad about myself, and then sports talk radio made me feel bad about myself, and then the owner of the team really made me feel bad about myself, I did what anyone would do: I threw myself a pity party and said “screw it,” dealing away three drafts worth of players for the chance to take a guy that only I, of all the football executives in all of the world, had no desire to draft.
REPORTER: Sounds illogical. How’d the guys in your war room react?
SONNY: Well our new coach Vince Penn was none too happy. He yelled a lot, and everything he said actually made a lot of football sense, but he said it in such a smug way, so all you wanted to do was shove his Super Bowl ring down his gullet. Which must mean he’s wrong and I’m right. Right?
REPORTER: I’m not so sure anymore. What about the rest of the guys on your staff?
SONNY: First of all I’d like to correct your terminology. They are not all “guys.” We have one lady, my girlfriend Ali, and she knows tons about football. When I tried to relate to her how I wished I could make a decision like Joe Montana made that decision that one time, she filled in all the football facts in my inspirational speech like she was Google Search. Funnily enough though, in spite of being a front office executive, my girlfriend Ali never actually got any football related assignments to do… She mostly just said she wouldn’t get people coffee because getting coffee would be gender stereotyping. Hrm… I’ll look into that. As for the guys who actually look at football stuff, well, I set them to work right away! We had to scout Bo Callahan if we were going to pick him! We would’ve done that earlier, but you don’t scout the best prospect in the draft seriously if you don’t think you’re going to land him… Why are you all looking at me like that? Is that not a thing? Anyway, the guys mostly goofed off all day, looking at pictures of Bo chilling with foxy ladies.
REPORTER: Before we get to Bo… Can I ask? You keep referring to Browns executive Ali Parker as “my girlfriend.” Are you contractually obligated to say that?
SONNY: Actually, the biggest deal I made today was agreeing with my formerly secret girlfriend Ali that now that she’s with child I should admit to our little illicit office romance. That’s really all she wanted me to say, and why she was mad at me all day. So I’m being more public about my relationships with people. I should also point out, if I’m being honest, that I’ve kept it a secret that I fired my legendary father to save his life, but didn’t tell y’all in the press because I hate it when people understand my motives and I like being a martyr for lost causes. Also, Coach Penn and I are on better terms, but I’m very insulted to hear that Vince spoke down to my girlfriend Ali, a respected member of our organization and the future mother of my child, in such a demeaning manner throughout this day. We in the Browns organization are proud to have such a knowledgeable female on the staff because if we didn’t we would seem very sexist.
REPORTER: Do you admit that your girlfriend would probably make a better GM than you?
SONNY: Yes, absolutely. But she can’t be GM because girls aren’t allowed to run a football team… They can only date the guys who run football teams. And not in public if they know what’s good for them.
REPORTER: True. So let’s circle back to Bo. You had a chance to pull down a strong defensive player and the greatest draft prospect in years, but you passed on Bo and chose Vontae instead. I know many a GM has probably asked you this already, but what did you see that everyone else missed? Was it something in the pictures with the foxy ladies?
SONNY: Well, in our culture, you’ve got to be hesitant around any guy who displays anything other than the utmost deference for the game. Touchdown dances and selfies at parties are a slap in the face to the sanctity of everything that defines this great pastime. So, as a stalwart member of the old guard, I was suspicious. Outside of that, we… ummm… My security guy, who seems to be the only guy on the Browns staff who can find things out, told me Bo’s teammates may or may not have gone to his 21st birthday party. And Bo lied about reading a playbook once. And also, he got sacked a bunch by Vontae in one game and seemed a little scared of him. Erm… Look, the reason I didn’t tell the other GMs about this isn’t because I’m being coy; it’s because I’m afraid they’ll think I’m crazy for passing on the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck because of a story I heard for the first time on Draft Day that I didn’t actually have time to corroborate!. It’s much easier to go with the guy I already believe in for vague reasons, especially when I find out on Draft Day that he’s raising the adorable children of his dead sister and could use the extra cash.
REPORTER: You realize if he’d been picked seventh, where you originally planned to take him, or fifteenth where he was projected to go, he still would have stood to net a contract worth at least $8 million? It would have been a significant dock in pay from the over-$20 mil a first pick gets, but his nephews would not have become sad street urchins.
SONNY: What are you talking about? I saved a black family from living on the street. I did that! I’m sure the Browns organization is fine with it. I’m actually going to talk to them about opening an Adorable Nephews Charitable Fund, meant to benefit guys with good character who will show the proper amount of gratitude when I draft them first! I think they’ll go for it…
REPORTER: It’s interesting you bring up character, Sonny. A running back hasn’t been selected in the 1st round of the NFL draft in the past two drafts; the idea of picking up a star running back with a top pick is as passé as picking up a sarsaparilla at a malt shop. Your victory lap move was selecting a running back with a recent arrest on his record with the 7th pick after passing on Bo Callahan, whose teammates didn’t go to his birthday party, with the 6th pick. Are you aware the last three running backs selected in the first 10 picks (Trent Richardson, C.J. Spiller, and Darren McFadden) had immense, sometimes comical struggles during the 2013 season? Is this kid secretly related to Adrian Peterson?
SONNY: No, but since you bring up nepotism, Ray Jennings is the son of Browns great Earl Jennings. They both called me today since I hadn’t been in touch after the arrest (I never actually scout anyone until Draft Day), and they sounded really desperate on the phone. I like it when prospects sound desperate, and I like it even more when I can make them cry tears of happiness because of family-related issues that have nothing to do with carrying a football. So it was an easy call to make.
REPORTER: Getting the Seahawks to trade all of the assets they incredibly managed to steal from you earlier in the day back to you with interest (a quality return man) must not have been easy. Could you believe you managed to convince them to trade three first rounders and a starter for the chance to move up one spot?
SONNY: Ha. No. I made a lot of dumb moves today. Actually there are about ten different times today I would have fired me, and incredibly a guy who started the day really wanting to fire me never managed to pull the trigger. I guess it’s because a gas leak in the Seahawks’ war room must have caused them to make an even sillier trade than any trade I could have dreamed up and now I look like a really smart guy with a mom who loves me again, and a girlfriend who loves me again, and an owner and coach who love me again, and a city who loves me again. My dear departed father and Jesus are probably throwing a party for me in heaven right now. It’s been a good day.
REPORTER: Is it true that your star quarterback destroyed your office after finding out you were looking to draft his replacement? Might that not be an issue?
SONNY: I hear he watched the draft at home with his family and they all teared up when I didn’t draft Bo number one. They were so satisfied, they didn’t even have a reaction when I had a chance to draft Bo again at number six. So, as with everything in my life, I feel I navigated that complex situation with miraculous aplomb. Thank you, that’s all for today. (Mic drop.)
Needless to say, I left Draft Day unsatisfied with the football aspects of the story and only marginally satisfied with the Sorkinessque workplace drama that frequently completely pushed football out of the picture (if not out of the frame, because there is almost always an NFL or Browns logo in the frame). Actually, I left Draft Day feeling like I hadn’t seen the end of a story at all; it felt like I’d seen the first chapter of a story. Draft Day plays like the rousing pilot (with a “back on track!” finale that would make the Glee kids sing a rousing encore of “Don’t Stop Believing”) for a much longer series about how everything that seemed so promising in that tunnel on Opening Day went horribly awry. By Episode 3, Brian Drew’s knees would go again, on Brian Drew Bobblehead Day of all days! In Episode 5, Bo Callahan’s Bills would shellac the Browns and Vontae would say something inadvisable to the press, causing a media firestorm. By Episode 7, the egomaniacal Vince Penn would be bad-mouthing Weaver publicly. In Episode 10, the true story of Weaver’s firing of his own father to save the old man’s life would be leaked by the team as a PR move and Weaver would be the reluctant subject of a heartfelt SportsCenter profile conducted by Dick Schaap. And in the season’s climactic moment, owner Anthony Molina would hand Weaver his walking papers, forcing Weaver’s girlfriend, and new mother, Ali Parker to make a call – stick with the team that dumped her boyfriend, causing a strain in their relationship, or walk out with him. (She’d stay, and she should.) Heck, I’d watch that show! Give it to Sorkin. Put it on Netflix. I could even stand to see these characters again – they’re not bad characters (and the actors playing them, especially Jennifer Garner and Dennis Leary in the thankless roles of girlfriend and aggressor, are doing good work) if you let go of the insisted-upon notion that they are, hiccups aside, the best at their jobs. Especially in the case of Sonny, who may very well be the worst GM for a struggling franchise like the Browns – since the movie never commits to making Bo Callahan any sort of actually menacing figure, and goes out of its way to make sure Vontae looks like a great kid, Sonny appears to be making his decisions based on who needs his help and will appreciate his power more. That’s not reading against the grain of the movie one bit; the film’s argument seems to be that sometimes Sonny let’s his desire to be a good man and a good son get in the way of him being a good manager. Which is sweet. But all of Cleveland would be in tears. And not for the reasons the filmmakers think.
**Million Dollar Arm is a markedly better film***, though within this markedly better film, there’s an even better film wanting to break out and get told that, naturally, gets largely ignored; this is meant, after all, to be the inspiring tale of J.B. Bernstein, a real-life Jerry Maguire whom Jon Hamm – our beloved Don Draper, Man of Mystery – plays as Don Draper-Lite, Man of Business Meetings He Has To Get To.
Bernstein’s story of trying to save his fledgling agency (which has, three years after opening up, precisely zero clients and apparently only one potential client) by getting a wealthy investor to fund a massive reality television program meant to unlock the undiscovered baseball potential of millions of Indian cricket players is fascinating from so many perspectives; actually just about every perspective other than Bernstein’s. From the perspective of his investor, to whom Bernstein’s tiny agency is one chip in a high-stakes poker game of international sports marketing, this is a film about the economics that drive the push of American sports into the international arena; from the perspective of Bernstein’s Indian partner, who has grown so far from his roots that he cannot communicate with the ballplayers he’s recruiting and cannot comprehend they, or any Indian, might not like cricket, it’s a fascinating culture shock drama for the second-generation assimilated American; from the perspective of the coach and scout, old baseball hands, who discover and train the ballplayers, it’s a fascinating look at the corruption media influence (I mean, a reality television competition, really?) unleashes upon a game they see as pure; and, of course, form the perspective of any Indian character it’s a meditation on whether aspiring youngsters with big dreams can trust the white man who talks a big game and fluctuates between reluctant father figure and callous exploitative prick. The film gives us one moment where two Indian newscasters look at each other with WTF expressions as they report that an American is offering $100,000 to the best cricket bowler in India, but they have to appear on a franchisable reality TV show to get it; they seem more bemused than anything, but that sort of questioning, and any sort of assumption that India might be reluctant to be recolonized by Western TV and sports, could have fueled an entire film.
In real life, Bernstein is just as much a marketer as he is an agent. He is famous for turning the milestone achievements of athletes like Emmitt Smith and Barry Bonds into something Pepsi and Wheaties could monetize. Desperate to save his agency after he is spurned by the only star athlete he was pursuing, the fictional avatar for J.B. is doing what he appears to do every night – drinking and sitting in front of his television with glazed eyes – when the proximity of a late night cricket broadcast and the 2009-defining moment when Susan Boyle shocked Simon Cowell with her rendition “I Dreamed a Dream” makes everything click into place; not only can he open an untapped fount of potential baseball talent, he can also unlock the world’s largest market by exploiting their desire to see a ragtag normal person impress a haughty producer on television. That this works, and that Bernstein gets not just emotional but also immense monetary fulfillment from his outreach to India means that the story, told from Bernstein’s perspective, can’t help but sound like the kind of dull affirmation someone shares at a cocktail party or puts in a Facebook status with trip photos: “I immersed myself in another culture and it totally changed the way I see the world. I wouldn’t have met my wife if not for those poor Indian kids who stayed in my house while they tried to achieve their dream and inspired a nation of billions.”
It seems that the most interesting thing Million Dollar Arm has to say about India, other than tired ideas like “Oh, much of it is very poor and therefore most of the bureaucracy operates on subtle bribes,” is that not everyone in India plays or loves cricket and to say otherwise is racist. And it’s fascinating to watch an actor of Hamm’s caliber wrestle with the inadequacy of that thin premise.
It’s clear that the character of Bernstein, so that we can see him transformed by his happy ending into a kindly dolphin, should open the film as a ruthless shark. He’s not. He’s sort of pathetic, a simpering people-pleaser to those he needs, a politely dismissive cad to those he doesn’t, a pitchman who sounds deeply in need of a throat lozenge regardless of who he is with. Without the poetic writing that fills Don Draper’s pitches and his fits of rage with so much ennui and haunting revelation, Hamm, forced to utter “Show me the money!” sports platitude, seems like nothing more than a huckster. The film, to fill in for the empty menace in his greedy character, makes statements about Bernstein’s potential goodness – he struck out on his own, leaving a Death Star megaconglomerate to create the agency he and his partner could believe in – and overwhelming vacuousness – he is known to only date models, and won’t give his tenant Brenda, a med student played by the quirky and wonderful Lake Bell (who makes endearing KEEER-CHUG sounds to convey her dismay that her washing machine is broken pretty much immediately) the time of day, which is not only not sympathetic but not especially believable – that Hamm doesn’t (can’t) really back up in his performance. As the trappings of what made J.B.’s Hollywood life sparkly and fun crumble around him, he seems like a man who needs a hug much more than he needs a life lesson.
Accordingly, the film seems like it should be over once Bernstein’s fruitful trip to India has given him a marginally new perspective on life, a Skype-forged foothold with his beautiful tenant Brenda, and the two Indian teenagers – Rinku and Dinesh, neither of whom plays or even likes cricket, to everyone’s surprise and dismay – he needs to kickstart his professional life. (He even gets a full-time translator to help him understand his charges, and this guy, Amit, is more than happy just to work for the privilege of being in J.B.’s presence!)
It is only once J.B. returns from India (where he was celebrated by the people as a hero, complete with farewell ceremony) with all his dreams within his reach, and is housing a group of foreigners so astounded by American elevators and fire alarms that they must stay with him in his bachelor pad, munching on his delivered pizza, that the Jekyll and Hyde routine takes hold. The realization that J.B. might have an actual sports agency – and not just a struggling sports agency – on his hands, transforms him, whenever a fruitful business prospect is in his midst, into that beast within. There he’ll be, casually flirting with Brenda when suddenly, a cut on the pitching hand on one of his investments, or a chance to land the football player that got away at the star’s stereotypical L.A. house party, or, climactically, the threat of having his funding pulled if he doesn’t rush the boys to a major league tryout before they’re ready… these stimuli will erase all human emotions and turn J.B. into Business-Bot.
Rinku and Dinesh, J.B.’s two Indian fireballers, are utterly destroyed by their failure in that tryout, so impromptu it takes place in a parking lot in front of an Ashley’s Furniture and, appropriately enough, a Mattress U.S.A.. a nice bit of symbolism. After weeks of high-pressure training with pitching coach Tom House (a great and sorely underused Bill Paxton, emanating an uncommon kindness for boys whom he sees merely as boys no matter where they’re from), the absence of comfort on the mound and of any discernible warmth from their overseas father figure causes the two men to crumble. But it would have been fascinating to see their psychology tied to more than just the tempestuous moods of their wary investor, who finally grows his heart three sizes when his own wary investor, a cold businessman named Chang, promises another season of Million Dollar Arm but orders J.B. to give up on the boys. At that point, we follow J.B. to Chang’s office and to Arizona, where he lays out a plan to get at least one scout to a second tryout even if it means losing Chang’s backing. His ploy works in the end, but as always, I wanted to follow the boys and see if, in that moment, they felt betrayed or exploited, if they called their mothers and fathers for solace or to calm their fury, what they thought they might say to the Indian press.
The real Rinku and Dinesh have lived more in their 25 years than I have in mine: both grew up in abject poverty, with Dinesh Patel being raised by his maternal grandmother because his parents could not afford to keep him; both were raised to believe sports were a way to something better, and it would have been intriguing to see even a little bit of how India views sports, and how it compares to the ways we give hope to young men (especially young African-American men) and all too often, turn that hope into something dark (See: Hoop Dreams); and both did not cease to exist once the Pirates gave them contracts (just as much because of the potential to gain a billion fans in one signing as because these pitchers could help them win) – Rinku and Dinesh both pitched some games in the pros, but Dinesh Patel is already retired and back in India and Rinku Singh is getting Tommy John surgery this season to try and keep his fledgling career, most of which has been spent in the minors, going. None of that is the movie Disney wanted to make, of course, but it’s better material than the material Disney did use, which gives the Indian characters more to do than you’d expect but still fails to realize that their story is unfairly being seen through someone else’s cold, calculating eyes.
Those eyes have softened by the time J.B. returns from Arizona with good news. He returns to find an elaborate Indian feast prepared by Dinesh, Rinku, and Amit, who apologize profusely for letting him down. J.B. does the first right thing he’s done in a while by asking reverently “For what?”, in disbelief that his charges could still be so humble when faced with the man who might have ruined their chances if only to advance his own interests. But that “For What?” wasn’t enough for me. I was upset that the film’s Indian characters never took their chance to set their angry despot straight. In the moment they should lash out, they make him dinner and are embarrassed to sit at the table with him.
I guess most of the time, I just wanted this film to be a long string of everyone yelling at the stupid white man for being a stupid white man, which isn’t exactly your typical Disney fare – I was, to be kind, reading against the grain. But not too much. Million Dollar Arm understands that J.B. is just that – ignorant, unkind, privileged beyond all reason – some of the time and it is not unwilling as a text to shame him when he goes into marketing mode. When it is done though, it is done through Bell’s Brenda, who steps into the “cut the B.S.” role when Rinku, Dinesh, and Amit are all too happy to acquiesce quietly. Bell is, I need to restate, fantastic in this role, earning our trust with her earthy charm, lashing out at J.B. with the right amount of sensitivity. She saves this film, because if she feels she can trust J.B. only days after calling him a “class-A jerk,” then maybe we can trust him again too. (As the culled-from-real-life videos and photos that make up the credits are sure to point out, J.B. and Brenda ended up married. Nice to know, but I wish more “based on True Story” sports movies would be brave enough to wrap up with their own images and actors and not feel so beholden to loop in the veracity of grainy clips and iPhone selfies.)
J.B. takes a huge step forward when, seeing the need to pump up Rinku and Dinesh before their second tryout, he cedes the floor to the only man on the field who understands them – Amit, who, unbeknownst to the largely absent J.B., has turned into quite the coach. It’s a great speech, and the performance by Bollywood comedian Pitobash, and the reactions of Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi) and Madhur Mittal (Slumdog Millionaire) make the film a rocky journey that finds the right destination.
It takes J.B. Bernstein the whole film to realize “This is not my speech to give.” It’s a truly startling moment, one that caps off a mediocre movie with a moment that approaches a true understanding of what movie’s might need more of: more of an ability for moviemakers to say of their straight, white, male characters, “You know what, this isn’t their story to tell.”
But in real life, the J.B. Bernstein not realized by Jon Hamm, the J.B. Bernstein who turned milestones for Barry Sanders and Barry Bonds and, yes, the entire Indian subcontinent, into investment opportunities, did sell this story – or acquiesced to having this story told – as his own story: the story of a wayward white man finding something approaching open-mindedness. It’s marginally remarkable that the film has the sense to realize that the climactic speech is not the white star’s to give, but it would have been more remarkable for it to actualize another fact: it was never J.B.’s story to begin with, and to frame it as such, regardless of the revelation at the end, only serves to highlight one thing. J.B. Bernstein made a savvy investment in the Indian subcontinent, and not only did he get a reality television show, a loving wife, and his professional mojo back; he got a Disney movie made from his life story. J.B. Bernstein may tell himself exposure to another culture transformed his way of thinking at cocktail parties and script meetings, but, while Rinku and Dinesh flounder professionally, he’s still a man making bank off his investments.