The Majestic (PG)

Review by Jack Foley

ON THE face of it, Frank (The Shawshank Redemption/Green Mile) Darabont's Capra-esque tale of a lost man rediscovering his identity in smalltown America seems like a sure thing; yet aside from some brief moments of magic, the odd nice touch, The Majestic is anything but what its title suggests.

Jim Carrey stars as the lost soul in question, an ambitious screenwriter (named Peter Appleton) in 1950s Hollywood who seems to be on the verge of his breakthrough until the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) threatens to expose him for attending Communist meetings back at college (he maintains he was skirt-chasing) and drives him (almost literally) out of town.

It is while on this drunken drive away from it all that Appleton crashes his car over a bridge and winds up washed up on a beach, his memory in tatters, near the idyllic but heartbroken town of Lawson; the inhabitants of which believe he is Luke Trimble, their 'lost son' miraculously returned from the Second World War (which claimed the lives of so many of the townfolk).

Spurred on by Martin Landau's doting father, Harry Trimble, re-born Luke sets about restoring the old man's derelict cinema and wooing his former love, Laurie Holden's Adele Stanton, unaware that the McCarthy witch-hunters still want their man and are closing in fast.

All the components are in place for Darabont's movie to be another classic in the mould of The Shawshank and The Green Mile but, curiously, the overall impression is one of huge disappointment.

The Majestic is a lumbering, heavy-handed piece of work, lovingly put together and supremely well acted, but curiously short on charisma and so heartfelt that it becomes overbearing.

What should be a glorious, old-school two hour movie, harking back to the good old days of old-fashioned storytelling, is a flabby, inflated and oh-so slow two and a half hours of soul-searching, albeit held together by a charismatic, restrained performance from Carrey and a wonderfully observed turn from the ever-reliable Landau (the interplay between the two is especially affecting).

Even more frustrating is the fact that there are enough moments in The Majestic to suggest that this could have been a really terrific piece of work from Darabont - an early stroll through a Hollywood back lot, for instance, is packed with great visual gags, as is some of the interplay between other characters (notably from Darabont veterans James ('Brooks') Whitmore and Jeffrey DeMunn), while Carrey turns in the type of performance which confirms that The Truman Show was no fluke.

Yet by its clumsy conclusion, The Majestic is nothing more than a bog-standard amble through the worst of Hollywood cliche; taking on major issues such as freedom of speech, patriotism and the effects of war on communities without ever really offending anyone. Appleton's big courtroom showdown, in which he extols the virtues of 'America the brave', is played strictly for the cameras and feels overly manipulative in a way that the sentiment in Shawshank never was, while the big 'will he/won't he' moral dilemmas are never really in doubt. Heck, you can even guess what's going to happen to most of the characters.

Darabont's assured touch behind the camera seems momentarily to have deserted him.

RELATED LINKS: Click here for The Majestic official website.
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