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The Majestic (2001)
The Majestic is a 2001 American drama film, directed by Frank Darabont and starring Jim Carrey and Laurie Holden. Written by Michael Sloane, the film features a supporting cast of Martin Landau, David Ogden Stiers, James Whitmore, Bob Balaban, Jeffrey DeMunn, Hal Holbrook, and Bruce Campbell. Filmed in Ferndale, California, it was released by Warner Bros. Pictures on December 21, 2001. Jim Carrey's performance in The Majestic was a departure from his previous work, which were mostly comedy films. During the early 1950s, Peter Appleton (Jim Carrey), an up-and-coming young screenwriter, is accused of being a Communist because he attended an antiwar meeting in college years before, a meeting he claims he only attended to impress a girl. In an instant, his new film is pushed back for a few months, the credit is given to someone else, his movie star girlfriend leaves him, and his contract with the studio is dropped. His career in ruins, he gets drunk and accidentally drives his car off a bridge while trying to evade an opossum.
Set in 1951, The Majestic stars Jim Carrey as Peter Appleton, a blacklisted actor struck by a mishap, endlessly seen in its trailers, that erases his memory. As so many amnesiacs before him, Carrey wanders around aimlessly until someone tells him who he is. Unfortunately, that someone mistakes him for his son, dead seven years, a brutal casualty of WWII. Even more coincidentally, Peter looks exactly like the long-dead hero Luke Trimble, and soon the entire town, having lost nearly all it's young men to the war believes as well, rallying around Luke and his re-opening of their local movie theater 'The Majestic' as a source of rejuvenation.
As any jaded moviegoer knows, memory loss has been done to death through the last century. But if you can put aside the overused amnesiac plot device and make it through the first few awkward and oddly-acted minutes of Peter Appleton's real life, you'll find The Majestic an uplifting and joyful piece of nostalgia.
More than any other film in recent years, The Majestic is pure Americana, a reflection of the golden age of America and the heyday of Hollywood. So successfully retro and squeaky clean is director Frank Darabont's work, it's almost shocking to hear characters utter expletives more appropriate for today. In fact, I can't help but wonder if this film might have been even better in black and white. It screams out for a well-choreographed dance number, or maybe a digital James Dean cameo.
Most importantly though, like true golden age films, The Majestic has heart. Carrey deserves a little credit; he hold the silliness in check well enough to really let us care about his character. But it's the supporting cast, an innocent bunch of beaten-down townsfolk and 'widowed' girlfriends who really give this film its soul. Yes, Carrey keeps things rolling without talking out of his butt, but he's hardly ready to run around balancing Oscars on his head.
Amnesia ploy aside, the biggest problem with The Majestic is Darabont's choice to relegate 'The Majestic' itself to a mere subplot in a larger picture. Rather than bringing the revitalization of a town, the renovation of its theater, and the magic of that experience to the fore, Darabont instead homes in on themes of twisted fates, confused identities, and Communist accusations. Sadly, unlike the much more interesting revitalization subplot, we've seen all of this before (most recently in Carrey's own The Truman Show).
Still, it's hard not to fall in love with such an innocent and well-meaning film. Darabont and Carrey don't quite deliver an homage to moviegoing magic, but they have created an absolutely entertaining and delightful piece of retro-amusement.
The DVD includes a few extra scenes, an amusing full cut of the Sand Pirates of the Sahara movie-within-a-movie sequence, and some information about the actual Hollywood blacklist. Nice little disc.