It wouldn’t be Tribeca without a semi-inspirational comedy! Enter: Jerry and Marge Go Large, the true story of an unlikely husband and wife team who figured out how to cheat the system and win big at the lottery! The film will appeal most to those who prefer a lighter, less cerebral depiction of events as they happened. While I cannot assume to know the real tale, I have to figure screenwriter Brad Copeland (Spies in Disguise, Wild Hogs) took some liberties in amping up the saccharine sweetness of this kindly couple.
Jerry (Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad, Malcolm in the Middle) and Marge (Annette Bening, American Beauty, The Kids Are All Right) live simple lives together in the tiny, distant town of Evart, Michigan. Jerry’s retirement from a local cornflake factory results in ample time to finally spend his days with Marge. What will he do with his golden years? Excellent at probabilities and calculations and not desiring to “gamble” away his savings at the stock market, Jerry decides to pursue a different brand of moneymaking. He buys 2,000 Winfall lottery tickets, and wins big! With $15k in tow (which he hides in a box of Mini-Wheats after a popcorn tin is no good), Jerry knows he can score even larger with the proper timing. At first, Jerry does not tell Marge about his new hobby, but she insists the time has come to “risk it all!”
To win more, one has to play more. Jerry and Marge concoct a genius plan to pool money with others and cash in. Cutest of all, the couple simply want to better their town and the people in it. Upgrades to the local businesses are on the horizon, with sinister or selfish intent almost entirely absent from their motives. I think the commentary that the film is trying to make has to deal with putting riches to good use, or making the most of one’s wealth. It carries a supremely sweet message that anyone can connect with.
With an ending that ties everything up in a neat bow, I was a little peeved at the lack of stakes or conflict. The closest thing we get is a group of Harvard students lead by Tyler (Uly Schlesinger, HBO Max’s excellent Generation) that have discovered the same lottery flaw and are also trying to exploit it for major gains. A reporter researching big ticket winners (Rent‘s Tracy Thoms) is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it side story. Initially, it seems that a store owner played by The Office star Rainn Wilson will give them significant pushback, especially when it comes to printing thousands of tickets. Once they rope him in, all bets are off. I wouldn’t say the lack of a true villain or the absence of a looming threat of danger is necessarily a bad thing, but I did want more in this regard. Then again, sometimes happy endings taste the sweetest.
Director David Frankel (Marley & Me, The Devil Wears Prada) captures the intimate moments between husband and wife beautifully. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Jerry and Marge celebrate their anniversary alone together, and Jerry says “I still owe you a prom night.” The relationship between this couple could have been explored even further, but I loved what we were given. Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening are true pros, and gobble up this material like starving beasts. For the young at heart, Jerry and Marge Go Large is living proof that even in one’s golden years, there is always a path forward with the one you love by your side.
Jerry and Marge Go Large screened at 2022’s Tribeca Film Festival. The couple come exclusively to Paramount+ on Friday, June 17th.