It's 1951 in post-war, anti-communist America, the height of the McCarthy trials. When struggling B-grade screenwriter Peter Appleton (Jim Carrey) is named as a communist sympathiser, he's sacked by his studio and dumped by his girlfriend. Devastated, Peter drinks himself silly and drives his car off a bridge, surviving the accident with a bad case of amnesia. He winds up in the apple-pie town of Lawson, befriended by the residents and mistaken for Luke Trimble, the son of local theatre owner Harry Trimble (Martin Landau) and an MIA soldier long thought dead. Peter slips into Luke's shoes and embraces his new life, even "rekindling" a romance with Luke's fiancee Adele (Laurie Holden) and helping his dad restore The Majestic theatre. Life couldn't be sweeter... until the government closes in.
Review by Louise Keller:
It may be much too long, and the editing isn't up to scratch, but I rather enjoyed The Majestic, for Jim Carrey's convincing performance and for its very sweet heart. A twist on the storyline of The Return of Martin Guerre (and its Hollywood remake Somersby), with the protagonist unaware of his identity, it's easy to see what drew Carrey to the role. The role is surprisingly filled with subtlety and nuance... and Carrey executes it all beautifully. Although he may have made his name with his comedic roles, I really enjoy the dramatic ones. Indeed his performances in The Truman Show (my all time Carrey favourite), touched everyone's heart, and although not so many saw the poignant Man on the Moon, it was a triumph for Carrey personally. In The Majestic, it feels as though the filmmakers have tried a little too hard, been a little too respectful to past filmmakers like the late Frank Capra, and as a result have sprinkled a cloud of dullsvilleitis on the film. But there is a lingering sense of melancholy and nostalgia about the stylish production design and the picturesque town of Lawson, where mourning and sorrow have become a way of life, evoking an appealing muted tone. Laurie Holden is a breath of fresh air as Luke's girl Adele. With Grace Kelly-like demeanour and Kim Basinger sensuality, Holden has enough appeal to make it easy to understand why Peter doesn't mind going along with the premise of being Luke. After Peter has settled in to his new life as Luke, there's a totally bewildering scene that seems to have been stuck in the wrong place. It's actually a rather marvellous scene, but not as it is presented. The scene features Bob Balaban (wonderful actor), brandishing an old fashioned fly swat squashing a fly on the window, as he demonstrates what needs to be done to Peter Appleton, when he is found. The scene is no doubt intended to remind us that the hunt is on and there is another world outside Lawson, but it is totally out of place, and looks like a mistake. One of the things I like best about the film is that it is not manipulative, but allows emotions to flow naturally. Reinforcing values and standing up for what is right, The Majestic has a satisfying climax, and when Peter returns to Lawson after the court case, hoping to find Adele waiting for him at the station, he is not the only one who has changed.
Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
The Majestic, quite simply, isn't. It is, however, a film that shows so much promise. The director is Frank Darabont, a "labour of love" director who scored serious success with Stephen King's The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. The star is comedian turned serious actor Jim Carrey, who many regard robbed of an Oscar nomination for The Truman Show and/or Man on the Moon. And the story is strong; a circa 1950 Capra-esque drama about a blacklisted Hollywood writer who prefers his accidental identity to himself. So what went wrong? Did Darabont's penchant for drawn-out human sagas get the better of him? Did the sentimentality of his first two films go haywire here? Did the film lack an editor? Maybe. The Majestic mocks studio control over the writer's work but, ironically, could have done with a bit of studio control itself. Most glaring is the run-time. At 152 minutes, the film runs out of steam at the 100 minute mark but continues to draw out, shed tears, and keep going and going and going. The intriguing first half sucks you in, but the long-winded second half sucks the life out of you, like some kind of cinematic black hole. Morgan Freeman said "time draws out like a blade" in The Shawshank Redemption, and it sure does in The Majestic. A guy in front of me actually lay down over two seats, and the audience actually cheered when the credits finally rolled. But The Majestic isn't all bad. It has the same rambling, gentle feel as Shawshank and Green Mile. And similarly, it's set in a time when people where polite, respectful and decent, and a place where everything looks grand; the polished 50s automobiles, the exquisitely tailored costumes, the characters' welcoming faces, and the neon lights of the theatre itself. In fact everything is "nice" in The Majestic except for those nasty Hollywood men who appear at the film's bookends, freeing Peter/Luke from their sinister world until they pull him back in again. Jim Carrey gives a fine, muted performance, but it won't be third time lucky come Oscar time. The film lets him down; the length, the script, and the over-direction. One senses Darabont has confused Capra-esque with Capra-corn, and in the end, promise is all we had.
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MAJESTIC, THE (PG)
CAST: Jim Carrey, Martin Landau, Laurie Holden, Allen Garfield, Amanda Detmer, Bob Balaban
PRODUCER: Frank Darabont
DIRECTOR: Frank Darabont
SCRIPT: Michael Sloane
CINEMATOGRAPHER: David Tattersall
EDITOR: Jim Page
MUSIC: Mark Isham
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Gregory Melton
RUNNING TIME: 152 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 16, 2002
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Home EntertainmentRoadshow
VIDEO RELEASE: December 18, 2002