Playing May 11th at the Chicago Critics Film Festival at 5pm (CST, tickets) and Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival on the same date, 7pm (PST, tickets)
The movie Starring Jerry as Himself is a very cautionary tale which defies conventions since we’re not sure where fact and fiction are mixed. I suspect it was made following what happened to Jerry C. Hsu after getting conned out of a lot of money. He’s a Florida retiree, and as the surname implies, he’s a Taiwanese immigrant whose life gets turned upside down!
One day, someone calls from China and says they’re the law. This person accused him of laundering cash. He’s afraid and to avoid extradition, they offer him a proposal to expose the crime ring involved. But that means him transferring money, and that’s when this story gets dangerous. He’s dealing with forces mostly heard, than always seen. The lines of reality are blurred because the nightmare is frightfully real!
There are times this work is more of a documentary than a full on crime thriller. It’s only after the end credits roll where I saw the distinction. I suspect the production team used the cinéma vérité approach to impressively develop the tension. Once I was invested in his plight, I was genuinely worried. Thankfully, his family is there. Although his wife isn’t the most helpful (he’s been managing her money), and one of his sons needs a loan to buy a house, he can’t really turn to them for help. His other son is about to become a father; to ask him for assistance is a bad idea.
I won’t spoil what happens at the end, but perhaps to live an American dream is a lie. Not every immigrant is confident. Although Jerry got a great job and saved up, he still got swindled. No matter where people go, there’ll always be crooks who think they can spot easy prey. Just what he does isn’t perfect, but for finding that ray of sunshine at the end, let’s hope what he decided to do at the end will give him the happiness that he deserves.
3½ Stars out of 5