The Majestic (2001)
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The story was good too, of course. Peter Appleton (Jim) is a movie writer during the time of the communist witch-hunt and he gets black-listed, loses his memory and winds-up in this town in which he looks like a guy that was lost in the war. He adopts this life because he doesn't know any better and he falls in love there. When he realizes who he is and is called to testify on his own behalf, he realizes that he needs to stand up against the committee because, "if a bully rises up, it's up to us all to beat them back down, no matter the cost."
The movie plot runs on two levels. Jim Carrey, playing straight, is Peter Appleton, a B-movie screenwriter in 1951 Hollywood who is trying to break into A-pictures when he is accused of being a Communist by the House Un-American Activities Committee. As the witch hunt begins to unfold, he has a traffic accident that ends with him and his car falling into a river. He is carried out to sea only to be washed up on the beach below Lawson, California - with no memory of who he is, his past life, or how he got there.
He is promptly mistaken for Luke Trimble, a local hero missing and presumed dead by the entire town, who like 62 other Lawson boys gave his life for his country in World War II. Lawson's sacrifice was recognized by President Roosevelt declaring the town a national monument and sending a bronze sculpture to commemorate its dead. However, the town's losses have caused Lawson to lose its heart and its way.
The reappearance of 'Luke,' and Peter's actions taken in another man's shoes, revitalize the town beginning with Luke's father, Harry (Martin Landau, in a great role) and The Majestic, the theatre owned by the Trimbles, which Harry had closed in 1942 presumably on learning of Luke's death. While Adele, the doctor's daughter (and Luke's fiancée) tries to restore 'Luke's' memory, Peter and Harry refurbish and reopen The Majestic, and bring life back to the town. All is going well in 'Luke's' life... until the investigators for the HUAC show up with a subpoena a couple of days after Harry's death - on the day of Harry's funeral, in fact - and coincidentally after Peter's regaining his memory.
Peter's agent also shows up. He has news. It has occurred to the HUAC that in Peter's case, perhaps they are mistaken; but they have to save face. All Peter, a man who has never had much in the way of personal convictions, has to do is stand up at an HUAC hearing in Los Angeles and read a prepared statement in which he abjures his membership in the Communist Party, apologizes for his error, promises to mend his ways and name names, and all will be forgiven. He'll get his life back. His A-list film, which the studio shelved, will go back into production. He'll get everything he ever wanted.
But Peter has a problem. It's Luke, you see. He was not just a local hero. He was a Hero with a capital H, and Peter has been him for a few months, as Adele points out to him; and when Luke reaches out from the past to touch Peter, Peter is ready to listen.
If you are a Capra fan, you can guess the ending and will approve. If you aren't, you'll say this is a mixture of schmaltz and hokum with just a dash of idealism and SO not realistic. And if you say that, I say you're wrong.
Capra could have made this picture, with Jimmy Stewart as Peter/Luke, June Allyson as Adele, Edward Arnold as the head of the HUAC, and a whole bunch of MGM's "old reliable" character actors in the supporting roles. The movie is a throwback to a more innocent time when people still believed in heroes and dared to dream about more than just maintaining the status quo. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give it an 8; and I wish Carrey would make more movies like this. He's a better straight actor than he is given credit for. This is one of the movies you can tell will stand the test of time, and as such you should add it to your collection and your list to the 200 Greatest American Movies.
This is the film I think Frank Capra would have made out of the story of "The Return of Martin Guerre" (and remade as "Sommersby"). It has the small town sense of community so brilliantly created by Capra in "It's a Wonderful Life," and the passion for justice and American idealism of Capra's "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." A review posted on this site sees the film as a vehicle for an attack on the McCarthy hearings and the infamous Hollywood blacklist. While the film certainly contains that element, I see the film as much more about the transformation of a character, and the political subplot is more a vehicle to accomplish that. It's a film that has yet to find its audience, but I hope it will succeed in doing so, just as "It's A Wonderful Life" was not fully appreciated as the masterpiece that it was until many years after its release.
In addition to the strong and intriguing story of a man who suffers amnesia after an accident and finds himself thrust into another persona, the film also has marvelous cinematic qualities in the photography, music, and settings. Carrey's testimony at the committee hearing is breathtaking not only for its content, but for the way it is depicted on film.
And the love story is also one that will make you weep.
This is a very rich film, with multiple layers and meanings, and a true-blue wholesome core that has rarely been seen since Capra's days. I wholeheartedly recommend it.
Should become one of the 250 greatest films ever made.
And I honestly can't say enough about Jim Carrey's performance... It was incredible. What a great actor he truly is... I can't wait to see him in more dramatic movie roles. I will be sure to make the time to go to see him on the big screen. I know it will be well worth it.
Frank Darabont has produced a movie which stands shoulder to shoulder with The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption: it is leisurely, gentle in many ways, always engaging, concerns the triumph of the spirit, and has some tremendously affecting, emotional moments.
It is worth saying that the blacklisting issue is revisited - the audience always knows that Pete has been wrongly identified, and the discovery of his personal truth drives the last act - but the issues addressed are universal even though set during the McCarthy hearings.
There is a large cast, all of whom are excellent. Jim Carrey's Pete is an absolutely straight part - it is unfortunate that one customarily needs to make that clear with regard to Carrey's films - but, to me, this film belongs to Martin Landau, with a performance which brought me to tears several times.
I recommend this excellent film.
The town is excited that Luke is back, and Harry decides to bring back his movie theater, the Majestic, to its former glory with Luke's help. Luke becomes involved with the town and its people; and Luke's old girlfriend Adele (Laurie Holden) is back on the scene. Little does Peter know, but the FBI is looking for him. One of his old films jogs his memory, and Peter realizes that he's not Luke after all. And he's wanted in Los Angeles to testify about whether or not he's a Communist.
This is a beautifully done film, released three months after 9/1/2001 and very relevant when seen today. It's about standing up for what you believe in, the power of love, and what's really important in life. Jim Carrey is marvelous as an ambitious young man who finds his heart in Lawson; Martin Landau gives a magnificent performance as Harry, a man who finds a new lease on life.
The Majestic stands as a symbol of a time when we walked into glamorous theaters to attend movies; when we sat wide-eyed in the dark; when films were more of a family affair; when life was more high touch than high tech; and when a person's principles and integrity were more important than anything else. It's good to be reminded of all of that once in a while.
Okay, I can't think of anything else to say, but I can't post this until I have enough lines of text, which is kind of annoying, but what can ya' do?