In a day and age where movies are seen more as a practice than an experience, it’s nice to see a film that treats movies for what they are — a chance to escape one’s own hum-drum life.
Frank Darabont’s “The Majestic” lets viewers get swept away from their own life and enter the life of Peter Appleton (Jim Carrey), a 1950s screenwriter whose first motion picture, “Sand Pirates of the Sahara,” has just premiered at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Just as Appleton’s career seems to be taking off though, his past comes back to haunt him. When the House of Un-American Activities Committee (better known as HUAC) discovers Appleton attended a communism meeting to impress a young woman back in college, they accuse Appleton of being a Communist sympathizer. In a world where you are guilty until proven innocent, Appleton soon finds himself without a job, without a girlfriend and without an identity after a harmless drive up the coast results in a near-fatal car crash that takes away his memory.
Washed up on shore, Appleton finds himself in a small town in Northern California and is quickly mistaken for one of the town’s long lost World War II heroes, Luke Trimble. Adopted by his “father” (Martin Landau), Peter slowly finds himself at home as Luke and even falls in love with Luke’s old flame, Adele (Laurie Holden). It isn’t until he helps his “dad” re-open the family theater and a minor desert epic called “Sand Pirates of the Sahara” plays that Peter’s memory comes back to him. Now, Peter must chose between living a life he ran away from or living the life he is happy with knowing that he’s an impostor.
Similar to most of Darabont’s films, “The Majestic” is relatively slowed paced. Clocking in at nearly two and a half hours, there are points within the film that will have viewers wondering why it’s taking so long to develop a fairly predictable script. However, a cast of charming characters, a moving story and a memorable performance by Jim Carrey will be enough to keep viewers’ eyes on the screen throughout the film’s duration and not on their watches.
As with Carrey’s other dramatic roles in The Truman Show and Man on the Moon, his performance in “The Majestic” is definitely worthy of the Oscar buzz it has been getting. Unfortunately, no matter how much he resembles Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” the fact remains that Carrey has little to work with at the beginning of the film, and that could hurt him come this March. Since a good hour of “The Majestic” has Carrey in a zombie-like state wondering who he is and what’s going on, he hardly gives an Oscar caliber performance that tugs on audiences’ emotional strings throughout the film since he has so little to do in the beginning of it. This is disappointing since once the script delivers (and his character is fully-developed) Carrey shines, especially during the film’s climax. Not since the classic days of Hollywood that this film pays tribute to has a scene been so emotionally stirring, and few actors could have successfully played the scene off the way Carrey does.
Carrey wouldn’t be so believable as the mistaken World War II hero though if not for equally wonderful performances from his co-stars, especially Martin Landau and Laurie Holden. Landau is simply terrific as Luke’s father, and one look into his eyes and viewers will want to believe that Peter really is his long-lost son. As for Holden, even though “The Majestic” is her first motion picture, her charm and beauty resembles a 1950s movie star so perfectly that audiences won’t be able to think of anyone else who could possibly play Adele.
Despite a cast of talented actors that look and fit the part, “The Majestic” has some flaws that even its cast can’t save. The story is slow paced and, at times, historically inaccurate. The plot is predictable and the script doesn’t let the actors shine to their full potential. Nevertheless, Darabont still knows how to tell a moving and inspiring story that will have viewers almost forgiving him for the excess 30 minutes of footage that could have been cut without being missed.
For those who appreciate movies that capture almost every emotion — from laughter to tears, suspense to tranquillity — “The Majestic” was made for you. Although it’s a film that takes time to tell its story, its conclusion is well worth the wait. The only true disappointing factor the film has is that, in a year with stiff competition from Russell Crowe, Will Smith and Tom Cruise, “The Majestic” probably won’t be the film that Carrey will finally win that long-deserving gold statue for. And the way the film is being promoted, that almost seems to be “The Majestic”‘s sole reason for being made.