The Majestic (2001)
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Jim Carrey in action (ignoring the annual How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)) and in a straight role which are very rare, much like his contemporary Will Ferrell. Seeing him here as Hollywood is trying to right its own wrongs from the McCarthy communist witch-hunt of the 1950’s when a screenwriters named as being a suspected communist member. Leading Peter Appleton (Jim Carrey) in The Majestic (2001) to take a drive which looks like he’s running away. Away to an accident and another life in a town a miles away from Hollywood. Being found a few days later washed up in a small town (Lawson) with amnesia. Members of the town immediately mistaken for a lost soldier and son Luke Trimble who nine years ago was lost presumed dead during WWII. Something the town had long accepted.
The town accept this Luke into their town, especially elderly father Harry (Martin Landau) and fiancée Adele Stanton (Laurie Holden) a law student who is more cautious of this old face. Welcomed with open arms he begins a new life, unaware of his old one, only having a brilliant memory of old films. He helps his dad re-open the old cinema – The Majestic, a run down cinema up into a small town cinema once more where the films of the day can be watched, away from Television, an ongoing fight which they weren’t ready to give up on. Seeing such films as The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) which cements all the fears of the country into one, the fear of communism and nuclear war.
Luke/Peter’s put to the test in many ways, is he really Luke Trimble, the fallen war hero, or is he the Hollywood B-movie screenwriter? We are never really in doubt. Wondering more about how his really identity and situation will affect this small town. The truth finally comes to the surface when his last film is showing at the Majestic, triggering a total recovery of memory (or enough for the film) and the arrival of the F.B.I. in town. This is the real test of his character and the forgiveness of the town.
Before the old news footage of the House committee on Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) is recreated as Peter faces the investigation. Faced with three years in prison, being blacklisted. He could easily be reprieved if he gave an apology and a list of names. Something he doesn’t feel to happy on doing, knowing the damage it would do to their lives. Instead he gives evidence, even admitted attending meetings, with the attention of courting a girl and little else.
Of course there is a happy ending even if it’s at the expense of other livelihoods being ruined, which was going to happen as we find out. It’s all about how we deal with the truth of a persons past and supposed affiliations. In the height of the witch-hunt during the beginning of the cold war, destroying lives and careers of people in America. Ignoring past amendments of the constitution in the name of fear. Something that has not really gone away in America with the waving of rights in the name of the war on terror, phone hacking and surveillance. The Majestic is starting to come to terms with a blemish in American history, focusing on itself, to understand the damage it caused others. As a man with Amnesia taking on the life of a war hero do we see what a country fought for and lost sight of years after. Carrey gives a solid performance, it’s not a stand-out role for him, with character actors with some older faces from Hollywood’s golden age who may have been experienced the witch-hunt first hand.