The Majestic (2001)
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Review Date: December 15, 2001
Director: Frank Darabont
Writer: Michael Sloane
Producers: Frank Darabont
Jim Carrey as Peter Appleton
Martin Landau as Harry Trimble
Laurie Holden as Adele Stanton
A 1950s Hollywood screenwriter suspected of being a communist gets into a car accident, loses his memory and ends up in a small town, infamous for having lost many of its sons to the war. The townspeople instantly recognize him as one of the young men whom they lost, and it isn't long before he's reunited with his father, his girlfriend and the movie theater which he loved so much as a child. But who is he really and what will happen next?
A difficult movie to rate. I actually had quite a few problems with this film, but overall, I did like it for its good-hearted message, its predictable yet cutesy story and its sentimentality. It seems as though many of the early reviews are saying that it's either too sentimental/corny or brilliant, and I guess I've fallen somewhere in the middle. These are actually the most difficult movies to rate for myself, since there are many issues at play. Okay, let me try. I'll start off with the good stuff. I liked the whole "feel" of this film. It's set in the 1950s and it really gives you that sense of innocence and fun from that period. It's also a very nostalgic film, reminding one of the basic morals and values on which America was built. The performances are all good, especially all of the secondary characters, who complete the picture around Carrey's central showing, and give the movie a deeper sense of community (I especially liked the guy who played the Mayor of the small town...great job!). Carrey, well, yes...the word is out once again, that he should be up for an Oscar for this role, but I'm not 100% on that. Granted, the man does put forth a solid performance, but I don't think it qualifies as one of the greater five performances of the year. He certainly does stray further than his usual comic roles, and provides for many tender, genuine and restrained moments, but I don't think that it's necessarily Oscar-worthy. But knowing those old fuddy-duddies, they'll likely nominate him anyway, just because they messed up royally when they didn't acknowledge his tour-de-force transformation in MAN ON THE MOON. The film is also extremely timely with all that's happening in the world, and more specifically, the United States of America, nowadays. It drives home some of the reasons why America is what it is today. It talks about freedom, it sheds light on those who died for that very freedom, it bolsters American patriotism and it demonstrates the extreme courage that it takes for someone to stand up to a bully, and their rights, instead of taking the "easy road" out of town.

I did, however, have quite a few issues with the film as well. First of all, does Frank Darabont have it in his contract somewhere that says all of his films must be over 2 1/2 hours or something? Too long! It could've been tightened by at least half an hour. The film is also quite overly sentimental at times, especially during the first few scenes in town with Carrey, and does anyone else think that it was quite insensitive of his papa to mention the re-opening of the Majestic movie theater as the first thing to his son, the morning after he hasn't seen him for over nine years!?! (How about "where have you been, son?") There's also a fine line between gooey and sentimental, and the film does cross it several times. And predictability...well, yes...I'll admit it, there isn't much in this movie that you don't expect to happen. I won't ruin anything here but there are some very basic staples in here that were just tired and could've been improved upon, like the "one guy" in town who has the attitude against Carrey and the rundown movie theater which is obviously going to get the A-Team montage sequence featuring the "whole gang" helping out. Kinda corny. And last, but certainly not least, the whole blacklisted screenwriters story-line. I mean, is it me or has this event already been covered about zillion times in other movies?! Give it a rest already! Not that it was necessarily badly handled in this film, in fact, it actually worked for me, but we've heard it all before folks...are we running out of subjects to talk about? Oops, and I almost forgot...there's also a very familiar "name" voice-over cameo near the end of the film that seemed very out of place. It's a very small, but quite significant part of the movie, and having a "name" actor reading it, was just plain wrong. I spent more time trying to figure out who the person was, then listening to the words, and it pissed me off!

But lest I forget, the movie also features a driving force about the power of movies, the theater-going experience and about how films can make you feel, and I definitely could identify with that. It also features a cute cameo by B-movie great Bruce Campbell starring in a (you guessed it!) B-movie within this movie, and ends on quite a high note, which personally left me "feeling good", so I guess that it worked on me. I also appreciated the score from the film, and some of the groovy tunes of the day (especially the big bag stuff, which I dig). The film is actually more of a tribute to fallen heroes from the past, and you can't really hold anything against it for that. It also pushes you to stand up for your rights, speak your mind and not take shit from others, and once again, those are all good things. Corny or effective...corny or effective...you decide!
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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