The Majestic
Movie magic. Pete and Adele smooch beneath the neon (Carry and Holden).
dir Frank Darabont
scr Michael Sloane
with Jim Carrey, Martin Landau, Laurie Holden, David Ogden Stiers, Ron Rifkin, Bob Balaban, Karl Bury, Gerry Black, Amanda Detmer, Allen Garfield, James Whitmore, Hal Holbrook
release US 21.Dec.01; UK 24.May.02
Warners 01/US 2h34

1 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
life comes into focus frame by frame This is a surprising misstep from Darabont, the gifted writer-director of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. Maybe the two obvious differences are to blame: He didn't write this script, and it's not based on a Stephen King story. Set in 1951, it's the story of Peter Appleton (Carrey), a Hollywood B-movie writer who gets caught up in McCarthyism. Threatened with blacklisting, he goes for a long drive, crashes his car and hits his head, getting amnesia. The small town that finds him recognises him as a lost war hero. Soon he's setting up home with "Dad" (Landau), rekindling romance with his sweetheart (Holden) and reopening the family-owned Majestic cinema. But the House Un-American Activities Committee is on his trail!

There's the germ of a good idea here, using lots of film references to tell a movie-like story. But screenwriter Sloane does everything superficially--borrowing movie scenes without drawing out any new meaning, using lame plot devices that simple never engage us, writing unbelievably corny dialog and inserting stirring speeches at every turn (all empty rhetoric, sounding good but saying nothing). Meanwhile, Darabont gets it wrong as well--making everything warm and sweet and missing out on any real life edge whatsoever. He also overdoes it on the soppy score (Mark Isham again!), ludicrously precious production design and, especially, the running time. Meanwhile, the extremely good cast is asked to smile endlessly and emote constantly without ever having proper characters to play in the first place. It's a complete mess, and all the more so since the historic events (McCarthy hearings, the aftermath of WWII) and the central themes (patriotism, bravery, integrity and loyalty) are so important. And so mishandled.
themes, language cert PG 14.Mar.02

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
life comes into focus frame by frame send your review to Shadows... "I came out thinking 'What was all that about?' As a film about a man's life torn apart by McCarthyism it would have been watchable and dark; as a moving story of people who had sacrificed during a dark period in history, and suddenly been given hope - maybe along the lines of 'None of us thought you were Luke, but we wanted to'? - it would have been potentially warm and uplifting with a message. But the movie can't figure out where it wants to go, and so straddles everything. Shame, as Darabont is so good at people and unusual stories, but maybe next time." --Matt Dowson, West Yorkshire 11.Jun.02
2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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