Screen Reviews

The Majestic


It would seem that The Majestic is Jim Carrey’s bid for an Oscar. All the ingredients are here: Strong, dramatic themes, moral fortitude and the look and feel of a Frank Capra classic. Only problem is, the movie is a flabby, paint by numbers look at life in America at a time after the war (1951) when the fear of Communists lurking in every corner was rampant.

Carrey plays a screenwriter who winds up on a blacklist, having been named as a member of the Communist Party. The only evidence of this was his name on a meeting list from years before, a gathering he only attended in order to spend time with a woman. He suffers amnesia from a drunken car wreck, and winds up in a small California town where he is thought to be a local hero presumed dead in the war years before. Since he has no recollection of anything, he goes along with it (partly because there is a woman still in love with the lost warrior) and becomes a town dynamo, helping his father (Martin Landau) reopen the town movie theatre, The Majestic. All seems well until Carrey begins to regain his memory and the Feds come looking for him.

I won’t spoil the movie by giving away anything else, but if you can’t figure out what is going to happen, then perhaps you’re not bright enough to watch movies. It’s a Wonderful Life or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, this movie isn’t. Jim Carrey will never be mistaken for Jimmy Stewart, and Capra made tighter, swifter-moving films than this. The symbolism of the rebirth of the movie theatre coupled with our heroes standing up to the government is perhaps supposed to be two sides of the same issue. The blacklisting of the “Hollywood Ten” (which is the historical event this movie uses) is generally thought to have ended the Golden Age of Hollywood and ruined the careers of several writers and actors. Of course, the movie is set in 1951, not 1947-48 as would be correct – by 1950 corrupt senator Joseph McCarthy had started his crusade against the “red menace in our State Department,” and had begun his crafted by Kafka reign of terror that ended with his censure by the Senate in 1954. Truly dark days for Hollywood and America, but this movie ignores what might have been the driving force behind HUAC to begin with – the organizing of screenwriters and actors into “guilds” or labor unions, a practice that any business strives hard to stop. What better way to undermine attempts to band workers together than to call them Communists, making them into enemies of the people. As with most everything, it most likely comes down to money.

If your idea of heaven is being trapped in a room with Jim Carrey for almost three hours, then this movie is for you. If not, then spend your time watching both Mr. Smith and It’s a Wonderful Life, and still have time left over to read a book on recent American history. Directed by Frank Darabont, who previously gave us The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption, the movie looks pretty and features fine performances from Landau, James Whitmore, and others. All for naught, however.

The Majestic:

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