Review of The Majestic

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Joe Wong, Dec 17, 2001.

  1. Joe Wong

    Joe Wong Second Unit

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    Saw this on Saturday night. Here's my take.

    The Majestic (2001)

    2.5 out of 4

    Starring: Jim Carrey, Martin Landau, Laurie Holden, David Ogden Stiers, Jeffrey DeMunn, Catherine Dent, Susan Willis, Gerry Black, Ron Rifkin, Hal Holbrook, Bruce Campbell

    Director: Frank Darabont

    Time: approx 150 mins

    The Majestic is one of those rumoured Oscar contender-wannabes that flood cinema screens around this time of year (together with the likes of The Royal Tenenbaums, A Beautiful Mind, and Ali). It has already been labelled Capra-esque, a flattering comparison to the great American director, Frank Capra. Capra motifs like small town Americana, simple ideals and values, and the individual's fight for what's right, are all incorporated into The Majestic. But at some two-and-a-half-hours long, the film certainly takes its time getting there. In the end, it seems like director Frank Darabont was trying to mesh the heartwarming spirit of It's A Wonderful Life and the inspirational struggle for good in Mr Smith Goes To Washington, but the whole is somehow less than the sum of the individual parts.

    Peter Appleton (Jim Carrey) is a writer of B-grade movies like "Sand Pirates Of The Sahara" during the 1950s. It just so happens that Senator Joseph McCarthy's investigation into House Un-American activities in Hollywood is getting into full swing at this time, and Peter is named as a member of the Communist Party. Depressed after he is suspended from his job, Peter goes for a drive and accidentally crashes off a bridge and into a raging river. When he reawakens on a beach, he discovers he has lost his memory, and is taken to the nearby small town of Lawson for some medical attention. Everyone seems to find him familiar, but it is Harry Trimble (Martin Landau), the former operator of the local cinema, who recognises him as Luke Trimble, his son, who was thought lost in World War II. Though Peter still doesn't remember anything, as Luke he is reacquainted with Adele Stanton (Laurie Holden), who was engaged to be married to Luke when he returned home from the war. Harry decides to reopen The Majestic, his cinema, with the help of Peter, Irene the candy lady (Susan Willis), and Emmett the usher (Gerry Black). The town feels a new sense of hope, but the witch-hunters looking for Peter are about to catch up with him.

    Like Darabont's previous film, The Green Mile, The Majestic is a long, languorous look at a more innocent time, a time when life was unhurried, filled with golden sunsets, good music, and simple pleasures like going to the local movie palace. If Darabont was indeed trying for the Capra feel, he doesn't quite succeed, and that's because Peter Appleton is not the usual Capra hero - one who's earnest, honest, courageous and with a determination borne out of his conviction for what's right (Mr Deeds, Mr Smith and It's A Wonderful Life's George Bailey come to mind). Peter is meek and doesn't believe in fighting for the greater cause - a stance that will put him under the spotlight later in the film. Though he loves the way he's treated by everyone (with one exception) in the town of Lawson, he's not sure he belongs. The way the drama in the final half hour is resolved is not convincing either. Capra's films may not have been overly subtle, but the messages in them are almost always clear.

    The Majestic is also a film that showcases a love for movies. The title is the name of a cinema that's the focus of Peter, his "father" Harry, and the rest of the Lawson townsfolk. There is also a humorous section at the beginning of the film when the B-movie world of Peter Appleton's (as typified by loopy adventures like the movie-within-a-movie, "Sand Pirates Of The Sahara") is ridiculed in a loving way. The film doesn't reach the nostalgic heights of moviegoing pleasure as displayed in, for example, Cinema Paradiso, but the film world, and filmgoing in general, play important roles, nonetheless.

    The Majestic is comedian Jim Carrey's third attempt at a "dramatic" film, following The Truman Show (1998) and Man On The Moon (1999). I wasn't quite convinced that Carrey had completely "crossed over" after those two films, as they still allowed him to mug and pull faces for the camera. His work in The Majestic has almost no Carrey-isms, which is a surprise, but the comic still feels a bit hesitant, almost as if he feels he doesn't belong in a drama, or has a point to prove and is still testing the waters. This is painfully evident in the opening stanza before he loses his memory - it's hard to tell whether he's a comic in a drama or a dramatic actor trying to make jokes. There are moments where he does make you forget that he is the funny man from films like Me, Myself And Irene, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and The Mask, but like his character, the overall performance doesn't have conviction.

    The supporting cast is headed by Oscar winner Martin Landau, who's adequate as the father whose hope for his missing son never wavers. More impressive is Laurie Holden as the love of Luke Trimble's life. Holden, who was underused as Agent Marita Covarrubias in TV's The X-Files, exhibits enough steel and conflicting emotions to engage our sympathies. Good support is provided by David Ogden Stiers (a frequent vocal talent for Disney productions) as Adele's father, and Gerry Black as the prim and proper usher who requires a watch so he can start the show on time. Also watch for an amusing cameo from Bruce Campbell (the Evil Dead series) as the hero of "Sand Pirates Of The Sahara" (and look closely at that idol!).

    Director Darabont has finally moved away from Stephen King-conceived prison dramas with The Majestic. The film is mildly entertaining, with some good performances, but it's an uneasy mix of Capra themes that doesn't quite come off. He also needs to make his films leaner (The Green Mile was over three hours long). See The Majestic if you're in the mood for a long drama that ends up to be much ado about nothing.

    Joe Wong
     
  2. Joe Wong

    Joe Wong Second Unit

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    Oops, sorry. Didn't see the other thread.

    Moderators, please delete if required.

    Thanks,

    Joe.
     

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