‘An uncynical film in a very cynical time,’—why Bryan Cranston zeroed in on 'Jerry and Marge Go Large'

‘An uncynical film in a very cynical time,’—why Bryan Cranston zeroed in on ‘Jerry and Marge Go Large’

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Gen-Xer Amy Baer couldn’t be more thrilled, as a dream of hers came true: Landline Pictures, a label with MRC Films, recently premiered its first movie “Jerry and Marge Go Large” on the streaming service Paramount+.

Starring Annette Bening and Bryan Cranston, the film is based on a true story of a retired couple living in Michigan who learned how to legally win their local lottery over and over — to the tune of $27 million, which they used to revive their small community.

Baer, president of Landline Pictures, talked with Next Avenue last year about the label and what they were planning to accomplish.

“I’m really grateful and proud that we were able to get the movie made during COVID. That was quite a feat,” says Baer, who is also a producer on the movie. “We launched Landline right before the shutdown in 2020. It was a challenging moment to start a business, but we were able to prevail.”

Emmy Award winner Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”) who plays Jerry, became involved in the project because he loved the tale.

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The value of a feel-good film

“The story was what attracted me. I was, as we all were, sequestered in life in COVID, and I wanted to do something coming out of COVID that was free and open and uplifting — not just for the audience, but for me too,” Cranston says. “I wanted to feel like I was telling a story that would make me feel better in the execution of it, and also in the experience of watching. And I usually trust my instincts when I select something that I am doing for a specific reason, and that was the reason. I think our society could use a little breath mint. That’s what I’m hoping for.”  

Part of Landline’s mission is to create films by, about, and done by people who are 50+. But they also want them to be fun, upbeat, inspirational films, which is actually what “Jerry and Marge Go Large” is.

“It’s a sincere movie about community and the human spirit. It’s about people who are able to do something extraordinary, but remain grounded and committed to their family and their community. These are people who won $27 million over nine years and put the majority of it back into their community and never did anything with the money for themselves other than buy a new truck,” says Baer. “I think that in the world we live in right now — that is so contentious and toxic — the purity and the decency of who the Selbees are is a rarity. It’s almost hard to believe that is how they behaved because we’ve become so combative as a culture. It’s an uncynical film in a very cynical time.”

Cranston says that the movie also explores how this long-married pair rediscovers themselves as a couple.

“It’s not just a plot where Jerry was able to figure out a flaw in the mathematics of the game and create benefits for him and other people. Not to be overlooked is what it did for him and Marge personally,” says Cranston. “This opportunity really turned into an adventure that they can share, that sparked their relationship, that gave them something to look forward to, that was something that benefited not just them, but their family, their grandchildren and the community they live in. It reminded them of their ‘couplehood.’ It’s important to always be reminded of that. And that’s what appeals to me.”

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Telling authentic stories of older adults

In addition to not always including various voices in movies — enough minorities, enough women, etc. — Hollywood has been known to not have enough roles for actors as they age.

When asked why it’s good for Landline to have more roles for viewers 50 and older, Cranston, 66, says, “I think because it’s viable and important storytelling — you don’t want to exclude any sector of the population. And you know, it’s a real thing.”

He adds, “In our movie, my character is forced to retire, and he doesn’t really want to, and he doesn’t know what to do. That’s a very real thing, especially for people my age, that you go through a sense of relevancy. Do I feel relevant? Am I still of value as a person? Can I still make a difference? Those types of stories are going to resonate deeply with people my age.”

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Cranston also believes that as people age, they shouldn’t be expected to stop doing new things. “I often say it’s especially important for us to never lose the desire to try something new. It’s courageous to, at this age, try something new and allow yourself to be a beginner at something. Because the tendency, if you sit in that rocking chair, is to say, ‘Oh, well, this is what I do, and this is what I don’t do,” says Cranston.

His point, he says, is for people who are older to “try not to be so self-conscious about it. Really try to open up and say, ‘I’m going to allow myself not to know what I’m doing.’ He encourages people to take risks and try something different and not allow their worlds to get smaller.

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That’s part of what Landline Pictures is all about. “We are changing the concept of how we can age and how we start a different phase of our lives,” says Baer. “There are choices to be made at and around 50 that are dynamic, life-affirming and compelling. That’s why these stories are so important to tell, because there’s so many of them out there.”

“The themes, the energy, the comedy, and the romance between Jerry and Marge is lovely fodder for an entertaining film,” Baer continues. “But the idea of a man who was essentially put out to pasture because he was forced into retirement, then finding his third act — that is, in some ways, the most extraordinary phase of his life — that’s what this whole label is about.”

Michele “Wojo” Wojciechowski is an award-winning writer who lives in Baltimore She’s the author of the humor book “Next Time I Move, They’ll Carry Me Out in a Box.” Reach her at www.WojosWorld.com.

This article is reprinted by permission from NextAvenue.org, © 2022 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

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