Jerry and Marge Go Large, 2022.
Directed by David Frankel.
Starring Bryan Cranston, Annette Bening, Larry Wilmore, Rainn Wilson, Anna Camp, Ann Harada, Jake McDorman, Michael McKean, Uly Schlesinger, Kurt Yue, Rhoda Griffis, Mellanie Hubert, K.D. O’Hair, Kenny Alfonso, and Devyn McDowell.
Based on the true story about couple Jerry and Marge Selbee, who win the lottery and use the money to revive their small town.
Jerry Selbee (Bryan Cranston, somewhat intentionally robotic but also hilarious and human) has worked the same cornflakes factory job for 40 years, providing for his wife Marge (Annette Bening, also charmingly slipping into the Midwestern role). That position is now being cut with him qualifying for retirement, except it’s not something Jerry is necessarily ecstatic about. He’s a hard worker and not buying into the idea that he is entering his golden years. However, he is also grateful for the silver lining of spending more time with his wife, children, and grandchildren.
The only roadblock for Jerry in doing so is his odd duck personality, whether taking things too literally, always searching for the meaning behind everything even if it’s insignificant or his comfortability around numbers and mathematical equations more so than expressing emotions. The characterization gives Bryan Cranston something dryly funny to inhabit, and much like the title alluding to going large, he is largely brilliant in Jerry and Marge Go Large. It’s not long before this quirky behavior and a boatload of free time has him investigating the fine print on the WinFall lottery rules, specifically for rolldowns (a situation where so much money has been amassed that ticket purchasers can start winning with fewer matching numbers), where he finds flaws and a statistical advantage for dumping a few thousand into the game.
Initially, Jerry hides what he is up to (especially since during a gettogether dinner with friends, Marge exclaims that they are not lottery people), but she is surprisingly not angry or frustrated upon finding out Jerry is pumping his savings into this little experiment. Naturally, that is because his math is correct, and he is turning a profit of thousands of dollars on every rolldown, but Marge also sees this as an opportunity to reconnect and live recklessly again like they were high school sweethearts (they married each other shortly after prom when they were 17).
As the couple keeps winning, Jerry and Marge decide to involve the rest of the small Michigan town in the process of rebuilding further various businesses and establishments, including a jazz festival. Jerry and Marge Go Large comes from a script by Brad Copeland (which is also supposedly based on a true story), who has written several episodes of the TV sitcom My Name is Earl, which made perfect sense upon researching the filmmakers. The writing is relatively strong at blending quirky humor into average middle-class citizens that also feel like believable human beings.
Eventually, Jerry and Marge take their operation to Massachusetts (the lottery near them closes down), where they become acquaintances with a highly funny gas station owner played by a disheveled Rainn Wilson. There’s also the addition of a Harvard student that cracks the same mathematical code as Jerry, wanting in on the action except for selfish purposes, juxtaposed with Jerry and Marge wanting to uplift their community. However, the inclusion of these college kids and the subplot feels rushed and slightly takes away from the characters and dynamics that work for Jerry and Marge Go Large (although it should be noted that Uly Schlesinger embodies some natural pensionable villain energy in the ringleader role). Equally lacking is a subplot involving journalists looking into Jerry and Marge taking advantage of the loophole.
The tone of Jerry and Marge Go Large (helmed by The Devil Wears Prada filmmaker David Frankel) is sometimes a bit too sugary and sweet but without ever becoming too cloying. Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening develop lovely chemistry that carries the story a long way, as do the occasional jokes and comedic work from everyone involved (Larry Wilmore is an amusing standout as a depressed widower that goes along with the couple’s lottery shenanigans). It’s also refreshing to see a numbers guy depicted as someone who has a vast sincere heart (even if slightly withdrawn and struggling to connect unless it’s through his methods). That sincerity extends throughout every aspect of Jerry and Marge Go Large.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com