By all accounts, Jerry And Marge Go Large is an infinitely better film than David Frankel’s last production, Collateral Beauty, which was one of the most baffling things I’ve ever witnessed in my entire life.
I still can’t believe a movie like this one would ever get greenlit by a studio, thinking there wouldn’t be any pushback (or controversy) surrounding its central plot, so ’m glad to see that Frankel has now resorted to doing something that wasn’t as egregious as his last film. However, compared to some of his other productions – such as The Devil Wears Prada, Marley & Me, and One Chance – Jerry and Marge Go Large isn’t worth “going large” for on Paramount+.
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Credit where credit is due, its two leads, Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening, do a great job at elevating Jerry And Marge’s milquetoast material, written by Brad Copeland. He bases it on an article of the same name by Jason Fagone. Cranston and Bening play the titular Jerry and Marge, and the film begins on Jerry’s last day at work before retirement. One day, at a coffee shop/convenience store, he stumbles upon a WinFall lottery banner and reads it out of pure curiosity. But our recent retiree has found a loophole in the game’s rules to win big money every single time.
So, with Marge, the two decide to start a lottery business to help the decrepit town of Evart, Michigan, find its footing again. However, Harvard Student Tyler (Uly Schlesinger) has also seen a loophole in the game, pitting him against Jerry and Marge for the ultimate prize…
JERRY AND MARGE DON’T GO QUITE AS LARGE AS THEY COULD
When the movie starts to get going, you know exactly where it’s heading. Of course, some will defend the film by saying that “it’s based on a true story! It has to be truthful to whatever it’s telling!” but that doesn’t excuse the lack of creativity Frankel displays in the way the film is shot and conceived. Maryse Alberti’s cinematography is devoid of any life, presented as a glossy TV movie rather than anything else, and makes everyone look fake and wooden.
There are a few impressive camera tricks here and there. Still, when the camera makes a corner store feel like a movie set, and the actors stand in the middle of the frame, with minimal direction as to what part of the frame they should populate, all of the thrill of watching a film is completely gone.
At times, the movie tries to dazzle with wipes and overlays, especially when Jerry starts to formulate a mathematical equation (to which we see what he writes on the screen) or when the couple has too many tickets to count with the WinFall numbers popping in. Still, these are the only times in which Frankel and editor Andrew Marcus try to do something compelling with the film’s visual look. So often, the movie feels more like a glossy TV movie than a serious straight-to-streaming release with two A-list actors giving their all.
Because Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening deserve better than the formulaic script, they have to work on. They light up every scene and make us care about their dedication to the lottery because they know it’ll help their town in the long run. The comedy is hit or miss (particularly with Rainn Wilson’s Bill, but Larry Wilmore is consistently funny as Jerry’s accountant Steve), but it’s the more intimate moments between the two characters that solidify their marriage and make us believe that they’ve always loved one another for the past forty years. I
t’s a testament to how talented they are as performers, because the movie itself is not very good to begin with, and might’ve been worse if they weren’t involved.
Tyler, the antagonist, is particularly corny. Not the actor himself, he’s fine, but the character is so clichéd, plucked out of another movie where a “better than you” villain tries to outsmart good-natured people who try to do the right thing; you already know where he will end up from the minute he appears on the screen. Tyler represents how pedantic Jerry And Marge Go Large‘s script is and how we, as moviegoers, have come to expect the bare minimum from our films instead of wanting Jerry and Marge Go Large’s filmmaking team to surprise us and adapt Jason Fagone’s article in a thoughtful light.
But Frankel never resorts to doing anything compelling with the material he has and instead churns out the most unimpressive piece of filmmaking possible. Yes, Cranston and Bening are terrific, and most of the supporting actors do a great job too. However, the film’s weak and lazy script, and an overall glossy aesthetic, make Jerry and Large Go Marge not worth “going large” for or motivating someone to want to subscribe to Paramount+, a streaming service with very little to offer to consumers right now.
Jerry and Marge Go Large is now available to stream on Paramount+.
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