As our leaders try to bypass our justice system since 9/11, we must remember that defeating an enemy at the cost of our principles isn't winning. Refreshingly, "The Majestic" upholds that idea, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Carrey is a 1950s' Hollywood scriptwriter whose amnesia leads to mistaken identity. Director Darabont deliberately evokes Frank Capra's spirit, in a romantic comedy of a sympathetic, decent, small-town fighting for America by defending our freedoms.
In college, shallow, driven Peter Appleton (Carrey, never better), wanting to pick up a woman, attended a left-wing political meeting. Now the House Un-American Activities Committee has subpoenaed and blacklisted him. No one thinks he's communist, but to keep his job, he must say who was at the meeting. He doesn't have names, so the Committee creates a list.
Depressed when his actress girlfriend dumps him, Peter drives the coast north, goes off a bridge, and is found the next morning with no memory of who or where he is. In the nearest town, everyone says he's familiar. Harry Trimble (Landau), who used to run a movie house, says the man is his son Luke, lost nine years ago in WWII. The town embraces him, as does Luke's girlfriend Adele Stanton (Holden). Having lost over 60 men in the war, the townsfolk were sad; Luke's return enlivens them.
The film's second part shows Peter "being Luke." Hanging out at the diner, he and Adele dance to a big band, then walk tree-lined streets home. Adele and a few other people disbelieve "Luke" is the real man, but don't voice such doubts. Sloane's screenplay deals with that just right: Peter's identity will surface. But rather than let events reveal it, Peter tells Adele he's not Luke. In the third act, Peter goes to testify.
His testimony evokes Capra heroes (Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart, Spencer Tracy) standing up for traditional American ideals. Surprisingly funny - Peter's defense is he was horny - the scene has Committee chairman (Holbrook) and inquisitor (Balaban) using fear of communism to override the Bill of Rights.
Darabont's films introduces characters we care about, and has something passionate to say. When "The Majestic" went into production, no hint of 9/11's tragedy existed, but the movie uncannily expresses faith that our traditional freedoms and systems are strong enough to withstand any threat. To doubt that is un-American.
Jim Carrey, Martin Landau, Laurie Holden, David Ogden Stiers, Jeffrey Demunn, Hal Holbrook
1950s; H.U.A.C.'s blacklist; mistaken identity; Jim Carrey;;
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