Nathan Johnston (Steve Martin) has had a very strange life you know. Even though he is white, he was brought up by a caring black family, as if he was one of their own. Moreover, when it is revealed to him that he is a white-mo-fo, he picks up sticks, and then goes out into the big wide world to discover who he truly is.
Now once Nathan is able to establish a base of operations for himself, things start to look up for him in a funny sort of a way. For example, he is befriended by a stay dog, called Shit-head – he gains employment and residence at a gas station, Jewish in origin – and then he invents a grabbing device for glasses and gives it to a customer, whose a bit nice.
However, one day, when a deranged gunman takes a disliking to Nathan, he inadvertently leaves the gas station and then gets a job in the Circus. Here, Nathan is befriended by a lady-biker, who uses him as a sex-slave to wile away her down time (inadvertently giving him some up time). Though not only does biker-girl like Nathan, but a customer does as well, Marie (Bernadette Peters).
Strangely enough, Marie falls for Nathan like a ton of bricks, THUMP! And the feeling is more than mutual, BOING! So as time ticks by, Nathan proves the affection he has for her, by leaving the circus, and then contemplating proposing marriage to Marie. Stranger still, is that Marie has obligations of her own - and decides that Nathan is much better off without her, and she leaves him, BOO-HOO!
And is Marie right? Is Nathan better off without her? At first - no - he's tired – forlorn – and living off of hospital food. But Nathan’s luck does turns around when he is found by the deranged gunman who tried to kill him at the petrol station, whom tells him that he is now a millionaire due to the device he invented for grabbing glasses with (now known as the omni-grab).
Well, this just opens up the doors for Nathan I can tell you. He buys the big house that he always wanted – he tracks down and marries the woman he loves, Marie – he employs staff to tend to his every wish – before living the high life, garnishing himself and his betrothed with all of life’s not so little luxuries.
Nevertheless, do you honestly think that this will last for long? No - me neither - because the director of this film (Carl Reiner), sues Nathan for an unforeseen side-effect that comes with his 'omni-grab'. So Nathan to loose all of him money – he loose his house – he loose his dignity – and he then live destitute on the streets.
Now can Nathan turn his fortune around again? Can lightning stick twice for this helpless jerk? Yep, it does - but only because of the love of Marie and his family.
Once upon a time Steve Martin was funny. He had hit after hit after hit of brilliant films that just made people laugh until it hurt. Though - does 'The Jerk' hurt? Yes - yes it does - but in a good way of course.
This is a film when Steve was on the top of his game, playing the fool with his infallible charm, his good nature, and his dauntless talent. I find that this is added by the overall linier story-line conveyed - one which uses novelistic techniques to relay back-story, character, plot, as well as a very silly satire on a rag’s to riches tale. Moreover, the tone of this film hits you straight in the face from the very beginning - with Steve (being the hapless fool) thinking that he’s black because he is brought up in a black household.
And from then on in, it’s just laugh-laugh-laugh until the end credits role.
As ever, Bernedette Peters is just delectable as the love interest, because not only is she pretty, but she also has that charming way about her that just compels you to gawp at her, whenever she is on screen, HONK-HONK!
But if this film had a bad point about it, it would have to be that the linier and quick fashion that the story is told in, does not really give us – the viewer – that much time to just gestate within the moment.
In a funny type of a way, 'The Jerk' also plays like a sketch movie, with a set-up – gag – and resolution structure per scene. Still, this is only something that you’ll notice if you have watched as many films as I have, and does not really harm this film in any way at all.
Heck, if anything, it makes it a fast-paced film that is structured in a common, yet skilful, way.
Personally speaking, I place ‘The Jerk’ as a classic in seventies cinema, giving Steve the right to be held in high esteem, even though some of his subsequent movies were a bit cr*p. Just check this out...
THE RATING: A