When we think of people like Lon Chaney, Boris Karloff, and Lon Chaney Jr. we often think of roles like the Phantom of the Opera or Frankenstein’s Monster or the Wolfman because that’s what they’re most remembered for. But what about their other roles that didn’t require hours of makeup, the parts where it was just them and their face? Well, in My Name is Jerry, a film co-written and directed by Morgan Mead, we see actor Doug Jones (proclaimed to be the Lon Chaney and Boris Karloff of his generation) out of the heavy makeup and in the starring role of a movie that has no monsters or supernatural elements of any kind.
My Name is Jerry is about a forty-something year-old door-to-door salesman who has lost his purpose in life and is just going through the motions. But after a chance run in with some punk rocker twenty-year olds he decides to take a chance and reinvent himself.
All at once he has to deal with starting a new job, a strained relationship with his estranged daughter Trisha (played by Allison Scagliotti), and for the first time since his ex-wife passed away he’s confronted with his feelings for one of his new friends amongst the punk rockers, Jordan (played by film new comer Katlyn Carlson).
Some people will probably be going into this movie thinking about whether Doug Jones can handle a “normal” role, and I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t thinking about that a little bit going into this movie. It is a bit weird at first seeing him play someone so normal but as the movie went on I found him disappearing underneath his role and really becoming Jerry.
That’s not to say that there isn’t any Doug in the part, you can seen a lot of him in Jerry, which isn’t that surprising considering that the part was written specifically for him by Mead. In one part of the movie Jerry says something along the lines of, “Oh, my god. I’m an asshole.” The delivering of this line, and the way he says asshole, struck me as very Doug Jonesish. And of course you have Jerry sleeping on a couch in a position only someone as flexible as Doug could manage.
But even with the similarities Jones is able to create a wonderfully complex man who you feel sorry for, who you root for, and who you experience all these life changes with and you’re reminded of similar experiences when you were younger and it allows you to experience the new found youth that Jerry experiences throughout the movie.
Having a good lead actor means nothing without good co-stars to help support the film and there are some good ones in the film. The ones who really impressed me were the twenty-somethings. They all seemed very natural and in the moment. I can’t think of any particular moments where I thought of them as actors playing a part. Scagliotti portrays her part with just enough anger and emotion without losing sympathy.
Actually, the actors who I thought could’ve been improved upon were the older, more experienced ones like Don Stark, who plays Jerry’s best friend, and Catherine Hicks, who plays Jerry’s new boss. Both seemed a little over the top in some scenes and Hicks especially came off as less natural than the younger performers. That said they still do a decent job with their roles, I just wish they had done a little better with them.
Morgan Mead does a good job with the directing. He graces the screen with a lot of long shots during more intimate scenes between two characters and never comes off as trying to make a pretences independent movie with overly complicated camera shots or an over the top story etc.
The writers should also be praised for creating a movie that, again, reminds you of your youth when you were twenty or perhaps even forty and going through a midlife crisis of your own. This experience that it creates is very nostalgic and even heartwarming in its own way. A downside in the writing department is that I don’t think the daughter story was resolved as well as it could have. Without going into spoilers I thought it could’ve used another scene between Trisha and Jerry to give it more completeness.
My Name is Jerry is a film that most supports the fact that, yes, Doug Jones isn’t just a “creature guy” or a “guy in a suit” but an actor, and a good one at that, who can do more normal roles just as well as his more offbeat ones, and it makes me thirst for him to get more roles like this, in films of just as high a caliber (if not higher), in the future.