In the mood for a quality movie that’s a good old-fashioned good time? Then hit the jackpot with “Jerry & Marge Go Large”, streaming on Paramount+.
I’ve liked several of David Frankel’s films, including “The Devil Wears Prada”, and largely overlooked “The Big Year” and “One Chance”. He knows how to make personal stories for a commercial audience, while also getting the best out of his actors.
Frankel succeeds once again with “Jerry & Marge”. Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening play the title roles (based on real-life couple Jerry and Marge Selbee). Jerry, a numbers whiz and now retired Kellogg’s factory worker, finds a loophole in a lottery game that, if played correctly, guarantees him to win AND make a nice profit. He and Marge first play “Windfall” in their home state of Michigan, but when their lottery commission discontinues the game, they turn their attention to the Massachusetts version.
Brad Copeland’s sharp screenplay includes some minutia about *how* Jerry, Marge, and eventually many of their friends start making so much money with Jerry’s strategy. However, you don’t have to be a math genius or even a lottery player yourself to follow along. Like many of the townspeople who simply put their faith in Jerry, the play here is to just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Cranston is dynamite, and his chemistry with Bening is packed with sincerity and heart. Some of their best moments are in scenes leaving the state lottery office with checks worth obscene amounts of money. This completely legal caper reignites their relationship as a modern, AARP version of Bonnie & Clyde.
An understated Rainn Wilson, as a Mass. convenience store manager, is the standout in the solid supporting cast. Larry Wilmore, Michael McKean, Anna Camp and Jake McDorman are also winners.
A subplot involving a group of Harvard whiz kids who also crack at the “Windfall” code and try to take Jerry and Marge down is based on true events (they were actually MIT students). This element does add some drama and provide character arcs, but it’s the least successful element in terms of impact.
Still, there’s no denying “Jerry & Marge Go Large” is fun and memorable (including a surprise singer cameo at the end). It’s targeted for the 50+ crowd, but everyone should feel confident taking a chance on this movie. It’s a sure-thing.
LCJ GRADE: B
Running Time: 95 min.