Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Majestic (2001)

Starring Jim Carrey, Laurie Holden, Martin Landau
Directed by Frank Darabont
Rated PG

The Story:
Jim Carrey stars as Pete Appleton, a Hollywood screenwriter working in B-Movies with high ambitions in the early 1950s. Things take a turn for the worse when Pete is blackballed on suspicion having Communist sympathies. After crashing his car, he winds up with amnesia, and wonders into the small town of Lawson were he is mistaken for Luke Trimble, an MIA war hero and favorite son of the town who hardly reacquaint him with his old life. He begins to accept it, until his past comes back to haunt him.

My Thoughts:
The film begins with some very clunky expository dialogue and some awful close up shots. Carrey’s aids how much we need to be told rather than shown about the character through a voiceover explaining his life to whoever he thinks is listening I suppose. I’m generally of the opinion that if you use a voiceover narration it needs to be incorporated into the whole film you’re using it to lazily tell us about the character rather than let us experience him for ourselves. Pete gets drunk in the bar explaining how his beautiful actress girlfriend left him, which would have been something good for us to see, so that we could see his sorrow first hand, but again, we have to be told about it. After that  he starts talking to a toy monkey to explain his emotions yet again. Then he bumps his head and gets amnesia and the telling finally stops.

Pete’s new identity of the heroic Luke is met with mounting praise. This is difficult to watch because we know hes not really who they think he is and everyone is suckered into it , making the inevitable “I always knew…” statements towards the end that much more painful.

Eventually Pete remembers whom he is and is dragged into court by a Communist Witchhunter who was only established early on but doesn’t have much stance as a bad guy since by this point we’ve all but forgotten about him. Carrey delivers a grand speech of “I stand for X and Y ideals” but it feels rather hollow and without weight or consequence, those present however, treat it with loud cheers, rounds of applause and slow tear drops. Carrey returns to Lawson with a crowd awaiting his return once again worshiping the ground he walks upon closing the film in a neat package.

The film is a homage to the sentimentality and triumph of the human spirit themes commonly found in a Frank Capra film such as “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Mr Smith Goes to Washington”. Using those themes here doesn’t work because we have to jump from Pete to Luke and back again so we don’t have a connection with the main character. The disappearing and reappearing antagonist makes this worse and the climax lacks any manner of subtly. Its hard to believe that this is from the director of “The Shawshank Redemption”, were all of Tim Robbin’s actions were subtle and quiet, building towards a greater purpose with a slow build up that generated tension and gave time to really get to know the main character. Here we are fed the line that Pete’s actions have greater meaning and are then told to applaud without really feeling the effects.

It’s a good idea on paper, and Jim Carrey does a good job with the material provided, but it feels a bit to packaged and processed in to building a “feel good” movie that it has almost the opposite effect.

Final Score:
2 1/2 out of 5. “Modest” but not Majestic.

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