The Majestic (2001)


A darling little film snubbed at the Academy Awards, The Majestic is a truly special film... a blend of nostalgia, patriotism, and moral values so desperately needed in our troubled world. This Frank Capra-esque picture wasn't received well by most secular critics, and Jim Carrey's performance was all but ignored, but this may very well be one of his finest films. The story opens with the "communist craze" at the height of the 1950's, when Hollywood directors, producers, and writers were becoming blacklisted as public fear of communism grew. In fear, they implicated old friends and new enemies in a rapid attempt to escape charges of treason... and prison. It was a Hollywood holocaust.


Peter Appleton (Carrey) is a struggling young writer in Hollywood of "B-class movies." His latest flick, although cheesy to the max, has done surprisingly well and the producers are willing to film his next masterpiece, 'Ashes to Ashes.' But the filming schedule locks on hold when his name comes up in a communist hearing... and the next day finds the FBI camped on his doorstep. His staff has been given the day off, his secretary is terrified to even talk to him, and his girlfriend dumps him like a hot potato. Although innocent, Peter is banned from the Hollywood lot until after the trial. Alone, angry, and depressed, he drowns his sorrows in drink at the local pub. On his way home, he slams on his breaks and smashes through the bridge railing, plunging into the waters below. He is able to swim free of the wreckage but hits his head and is knocked unconscious. Waking up the following morning on a beach somewhere along the California coast, he has no recollection of anything... who he is, where he came from, or what happened.


The small, likable town that he winds up in thanks to the helping hand of a kindly old seaman, has had its fare share of sacrifice. They sent sixty-some young men off to the war... and none of them came back. One of them, Luke Trimble, was reported as "missing in action," and awarded the purple heart for bravery. The curious thing is, the man's father Harry mistakes Peter for Luke... and the rest of the town is similarly affected. Unable to remember his own past, Peter begins to grow into his new life... a celebrated war hero, a long-lost son of the town. His "father" owns The Majestic, the old movie theater which has been closed since Luke disappeared some nine years before. Rejoicing that his son has returned, Harry wants to reopen the old place but it's in bad disrepair. The screen is torn, the walls badly in need of paint, the equipment old and fragile. Peter/Luke isn't sure that he wants to reopen the place... but somehow he's carried into the excitement by Luke's old girlfriend Adele.


But of course in town there are the skeptics... and the FBI is looking for a missing communist. Amnesia can only last for so long... which life will he choose? Many commented on the likeness of this film's climax scene to Jimmy Stewart's performance in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. That was the purpose of Jim Carrey, and I feel it's an honored achievement. This film somehow manages to blend the history of Hollywood into patriotism and honor. It upholds the Constitution as more than "just a contract with names on it that can be re-negotiated." It also condemns unjust sentencing and pushes strongly the sacrifices that were given in the war by our young men and boys... and asks, "Are we proud of our nation? Are we proud of what we've become?" I found tears in my eyes as the entire town placed their hands over their hearts to honor the flag and the national anthem at the unveiling of a war memorial. I was pleased with the way they rallied to work together to restore The Majestic. And I was thrilled with the humble but patriotic speech at the end. Yes, it is a Capra-esque film, and it should be. Perhaps if we had more like it, we would find a sense of patriotism and honor renewed in our hearts. It may be slightly slow moving and overly long at times, but I feel the message is worth it. 


Sadly The Majestic's one flaw lies in some unfortunate language. The several abuses of Jesus' name were out of place and poorly inserted; they prove to be insulting to an otherwise excellent film. I could have also done without four uses of G--d--n. There were other profanities, but they didn't overly bother me or seem to infringe too heavily on the plot. Several of the scenes stand out as memorable... particularly the lighthouse hiccup sequence. I was also struck by how much the leading lady resembles Grace Kelly. It's almost fitting.


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