In a world of cynicism, decadence, and excess, sometimes an uplifting story is just the antidote we need.
The story of Jerry and Marge Selby was wild in the best way.
With a sharp mind and a love for solving puzzles, Jerry found a loophole in a lottery game that he used to win US$26 million in nine years. And it was all perfectly legal.
The Selbies are Michigan retirees and for years they traveled from their home to Massachusetts, where they spent days printing out tickets and then combing through every sheet of paper for even longer to find the winning numbers.
But that was not all for them. The Selbies have shared their good fortune with their community, improved their city, and helped their family and friends. It’s a good news.
It was a story that also proved irresistible to Hollywood, which turned the Selby story into Jerry and Marge are getting bigstarring Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening.
Selby’s wholesome story goes against the most high-profile movies and TV shows, illuminating a slice of American culture now rarely seen around the world, so focused are we all on the worst of American decadence and excess.
“It’s hard to write a story right now that doesn’t have cynicism, because obviously the stakes are very high right now around the world and certainly in America,” Bening told news.com.au. “There are so many polarized people and the political atmosphere is also very polarized.
“So to find the true story of Jerry who finds a flaw in the lottery system and they go to their friends and their kids and their community and say, ‘Hey guys, join in’ – this movie celebrates the fact that this happened to these people, and it didn’t make them more cynical or more greedy. Or cause some terrible tragedy.
“He celebrates the really positive part of human nature, which is genuinely true.”
Bening said reading the script, which came to her during the difficult days of the pandemic, lifted her spirits.
“It was an easy choice for me,” she added. “It really lifted my spirits, made me laugh and I thought, ‘This is what we need right now.’
Cranston also saw the gem on the page. “When you read something and it resonates with you, has meaning and pathos for you, you believe that this is also a feeling that the audience will experience.
“That you can turn it around and show them and they will feel the same way. This is hope, and you must trust your instincts, which you have chosen wisely. Jerry and Marge created such an effect.
“It turned out exactly as I had hoped — a sweet, loving, positive and uplifting adventure.”
Cranston also cited Bening as the reason he enjoyed the experience so much because she was someone he could not only get along with but appreciate. And this is not always the case.
“There were people who weren’t named who I didn’t enjoy working with, and as you get older, you want that less and less. I don’t want to spend six weeks with someone I know and it will be work.”
This mutual respect and admiration is conveyed on screen, where their on-screen counterparts, the fictional Jerry and Marge, have an easy-going, loving relationship that is reminiscent of a type of American storytelling that almost feels like part of a bygone era.
Co-star Larry Wilmore agreed there used to be more Jerry and Marge type of stories than now.
“The American film industry has turned around and turned to anti-heroes and more to the deconstruction of life than showing such things,” Wilmore said. “I think there’s a lot more that exists than is considered because it doesn’t always grab the headlines.
“So we’re covering more of the destruction that’s taking place. Unfortunately, there is a lot of bad, but there is also a lot of good. And I hope this gives people hope that [the Selbys’ story] can happen because we didn’t make it up, this story is true.
“When I read the script, I thought, ‘Thanks, we need a story like this.’ It wasn’t flashy, it was just real.”
Jerry and Marge go big on Paramount+ starting Saturday, June 17th.