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Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Jerk (released in 1979) - a comedy film, Steve Martin's first starring role in a movie

This all out American comedy directed by Carl Steiner stars Steve Martin in the title role. It also stars Bernadette Peters, Jackie Mason and Emmett Walsh.
The movie follows Navin R. Johnson, the white son of poor African American Sharecroppers who feels faint suspicion about himself being adopted. All his black family members can belt out the blues while Navin cannot sing even for a penny. But he discovers his hidden talents of dance when he hears Roger Wolfe Kahn Orchestra Song called "Crazy Rhythm" on the radio and he hitch hikes to St. Louis to better himself. While at the boarding house he is awakened by a dog whom he assumes is trying to save him from the fire. He wakes up the entire hotel and is berated by the irate guests when it turns out to be a hoax. One of the guests name the dog shithead and the name is adopted by Navin throughout the movie.
Navin finds himself a job at a gas station and is thrilled to find himself listed on the phone book. But a psychopath, randomly picking up a name from the phone book zeroes on him to be his next victim. Navin oblivious of the danger is busy with his life and inventions. He tries to fix the slippery glasses of a customer using a nose break and a handle, and pleased with his effort the customer promises him a royalty if his invention turns out to be a success.

Meanwhile the assassin pursues Navin who is forced to run away from the gas station. He enrolls himself in a traveling circus where he meets the stunt women Patty Bernstein with whom he has sexual relations. Soon he finds the woman of his dreams in Marie Peters and both fall in love. But Marie realizes love sustains only with money and leaves him due to his financial insecurity.
As luck could have it, his glasses invention becomes a runaway success and is called “Optigrab” in the market. The royalties make Navin a wealthy man and he buys a huge mansion with his profits. He finds and marries Marie and lives an extravagant lifestyle. But one of the customers file a law suit against his invention as it makes him cross eyed and soon 10 million others follow. Navin is soon bankrupt and is forced on the streets with his remote, a paddle ball game and some matches. He leaves Marie to wander about in the streets. Marie contacts his family who in turn have become wealthy by careful investments of Navin's money sent to them. They pick him from the streets and take him to his now renovated old house. Navin realizes the wonder of family and all of them sing the blues away in perfect sync.
This rags to riches story was one of the greatest hits of the year and is considered as one of the best comedies of the century. It is recognized as one of the 100 best comic films by the American Film Institute and is also considered as the best performances by Steve Martin.
This is a Steve Martin movie all the way with the funny man presiding over all the frames and getting the best one liners. But it has tender moments and delivers a impassioned lookout for racism. It is really a feel good moment when Steve strikes out against “Iron-Mcginty” for calling African American's derogatory words. His relationships with both the women he meets is hilarious and sometimes tender. A nice movie to get the blues to energize you.

The Jerk (released in 1979) - a comedy film, Steve Martin's first starring role in a movie

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