My Name is Jerry
With his impossibly lanky body and long face made up of etched angles, Doug Jones has carved out a very nice career wearing bodysuits and heavy makeup to play aliens, demons and other fantastic creatures. In "My Name is Jerry," the Hoosier thespian gets a chance to portray a regular guy, and show off some impressive acting chops.
Jones plays the titular Jerry, a door-to-door book salesman who's suffering through a mid-life crisis. Well, more accurately a life crisis -- it's not Jerry's age that's got him down, but the sense that life is passing him by.
He's divorced and barely ever sees his college-age daughter. He can barely summon up the enthusiasm to do his job, which is an endless parade of doors shutting on his face. He has only one friend, David (Don Stark), and the only glimmer of romance on the horizon is a Korean neighbor who brings her much-too-young granddaughter to his door once a week to ask him out on a date. The granddaughter and Jerry conspire to deceive the grandmother, who does not speak English, with one improvised excuse after another.
But then Jerry stumbles across a group of punk rockers half his age who help him come out of his shell, and learn to take some chances. He tries out for a job with a bold new upstart company, and after the death of his ex-wife his daughter Trisha (Allison Scagliotti) comes to live with him -- resentfully.
Directed by former Ball State student Morgan Mead from a screenplay by David Hamilton, "Jerry" was shot in and around Muncie with the financial backing of BSU -- the first time I've ever heard of a major institution of learning funding a feature film.
The film's got a lot of heart, but never feels sappy and maudlin. The scenes of Jerry trying to restructure his staid life to fit in with the youngsters are rife with humor. In one bit, Jerry cuts up an old business suit and puts on Joker makeup to try to look punk -- his notion of punk dating back to The Ramones. I loved the scene where Jerry looks at himself in the mirror with sudden realization and shouts, "I'm an asshole!"
The movie occasionally suffers from some slight amateurish acting, but overall the cast is refreshing and vibrant. I particularly liked Katlyn Carlson as Dana, a bartender who takes pity on Jerry and becomes his friend. She's got super-bad ex-boyfriend problems, and isn't prepared when Jerry appears to see himself as the replacement, despite their 20-year age difference.
Mostly, though, "My Name is Jerry" is a chance for Doug Jones to set aside the masks he's always wearing and emerge as a performer with a great deal of range and heft.