tek's rating:

The Majestic (PG)
IMDb; Rotten Tomatoes; TV Tropes; Warner Bros.; Wikipedia

This came out in 2001, and I guess I've been wanting to see it ever since then, but I didn't get around to it until 2013. I'm glad I finally did. It wasn't particularly successful either critically or financially, but I definitely liked it a lot. It might be called derivative, treacly, or other adjectives which are meant disparagingly, and I don't disagree with those views, though I don't happen to believe they're always bad things. This is one of the cases where I think such qualities work rather pleasantly. (Of course, some things I've seen that this reminds me of may have been made later, even if I saw them before I saw this, so... obviously it can't be derivative of them.)

Anyway, it's set in 1951. Jim Carrey plays a Hollywood screenwriter named Pete Appleton, who's recently gotten a B-movie produced (we see a bit of it, and the hero is played by Bruce Campbell, which is pretty cool). And he's on the verge of getting an A-movie made, albeit with plenty of executive meddling that he's too timid to speak out against... because he doesn't want to jeopardize his big break. (We see a similar scene near the end of the movie, though it plays out differently, because by then Pete will have gone through something that parallels the situation, but which is much more serious than silly script rewrites.) This being the McCarthy era, Pete suddenly finds himself accused of being a Communist. His girlfriend dumps him, and the studio wants to distance itself from him, and his only option is to testify before HUAC, renouncing the Communist Party and giving them names of other Communists (the Feds already have a list of names, but they need someone to testify to it, though of course Pete knows none of the people on the list).

In despair, he goes out drinking, and then drives... and his car ends up going off a bridge. He survives, but hits his head and gets amnesia. He's then found near a small town called Lawson, where everyone thinks he looks familiar, though Pete himself has no idea of his own identity. Then a guy named Harry Trimble (Martin Landau) sees him, and is convinced that Pete is his son, Luke, who had gone off to war almost a decade earlier (World War II), but had never returned. Luke's body had never been found, but he'd been declared dead. Harry is overjoyed to have his son back, and almost everyone else in town is soon glad to have Luke back, too. (There's really only one guy who isn't happy about it, but while I thought that made for a decent subplot, it's too minor to go into detail.) There's also a woman named Adele Stanton (who we like), who had gotten engaged to Luke before he went to war. She's more hesitant about accepting that Pete really is Luke, but while she tries to help him regain his memory, the two of them fall in love, anyway.

Meanwhile, Harry used to run a movie theater called the Majestic, along with a guy named Emmett and a woman named Irene. And now that "Luke" is back, Harry wants to reopen the theater, which had closed after the war. So it needs a lot of repairs, which Luke will help with, and they get the rest of the town to help, as well. By the time it's ready to reopen, it really does look pretty amazing. But while all this is going on, the Feds are still looking for Pete, and they eventually find him. And... well, shortly before they do, Pete gets his memory back. And... I don't want to give away how it all ends, but I liked it, even if it was treacly and derivative and predictable. Basically, it's just a good story with good characters played by good actors. And of course, on top of the slightly quirky drama and romance (and I did like the way the romance was handled), there's a good political message. (But I've always been a sucker for anything that knocks McCarthyists down a peg.)


period index