Review: Starring Jerry As Himself (Slamdance Festival 2023)

Title: Starring Jerry As Himself
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Director: Law Chen
Starring: Jerry Hsu, Nick Bailey, Fang Du, Jesse Hsu
Runtime: 1 hr 15 mins

What It Is: In this part documentary, part cinematic dramatization, Jerry Hsu is an older immigrant man living in America. Jerry lives by himself in Florida, is divorced, and planning on helping his son buy a new apartment. When Jerry receives a call from someone who claims they’re a Chinese policeman, and that the branch is recruiting him to be an undercover agent. They demand him to make multiple withdrawals of incredible sums of money to be turned in, in order to “catch” the criminal force which Jerry is assigned to somehow apprehend through moving the funds. In his head, Jerry is finally the hero, the main character, someone important and intrinsic. The reality, however, reveals itself to be far more serious.

What We Think: In a great presentation that reminds of the metafiction Leonor Will Never Die, this creative yet unfortunate documentary showcases with great atmosphere and detail the real-life events following Jerry Hsu’s victimization by scam artists, and how he dissociates from his real life in the belief that he’s the role of the hero in a story. While framing Jerry as a hero in his lie-fueled fantasies, the documentary also cleverly shows just how deceived he is, and how the financial situation will end up affecting the family. The real-life destruction unfolds as its followed by Jerry’s hopes of a greater purpose, leaving room for the creativity of Jerry’s imagination and empathy for the inevitable misfortune that will follow him and his family for the rest of his life. The watch is an emotional double-edged sword, as you’re simultaneously rooting for Jerry and also being increasingly, massively concerned for him and his family, as phone scams are a relatively contemporary danger that a lot of folks like himself are not aware of but are unfortunately affected by.

Our Grade: B, A personable documentary framed stylistically within the parameters of Hsu’s dream to be a hero, Starring Jerry As Himself serves as a moving and entertaining education on how important it is to understand that duplicity can come from anywhere and how easy it is to be affected by this. It’s heart-wrenching to see how the Hsu’s now have to face their patriarch losing everything he came to America for. I wish the best for the Hsu’s, and for Jerry, hoping that the documentary can not only spread awareness but help ease the strain that Jerry’s debts may have on them.