Reviewed by: Douglas Downs
Better than Average
Romance Comedy Drama
2 hr. 23 min.
Year of Release:
December 21, 2001 (wide)
What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer
Communism / Hollywood 1950s Communist blacklist
amnesia / memory loss
screenwriter for Hollywood studio
long lost son
father son reunion
mistaken identity / stolen identity / identity theft
father daughter relationship
boyfriend girlfriend relationship
There are some that remember the events and the tone of our country during the cold war. Our primary enemy at that time was Communism and not terrorism. We went from the Red Scare in the 1920’s to McCarthyism in the 1950s. The Senator from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy, was accused of instigating his own version of the Spanish Inquisition or the Salem Witch Trials. It was a time of fear and sometimes hysteria as we looked for communism under every rock. The result was a most intensive focus. No one was safe from these public probes. Government workers, College Professors, Playwrights, Hollywood Screenwriters, actors, artists, and musicians were all suspects. The most intensive pressure was brought to bear on Hollywood. They were perceived as the shapers of public thought. Many writers moved to Mexico or Europe to avoid being put into prison. Ozzie and Harriet, Doris Day, and Annette Funicello were among the lists of rumors and myths. Charles Chaplin was deported during this controversial time. McCarthy did not create the communist problem, but he exploited it shamelessly for political ends. The new media of television captured these moments and the public soon began to see through the microscopic scrutiny. The tide of public opinion soon turned against him.
“The Majestic” does an outstanding job of capturing this period of American history. This film succeeds in the nostalgia department where films like “The Curse of the Jade Scorpion” failed. It is an almost perfect Capra-esque fable. Frank Darabont (“The Shawshank Redemption,” “The Green Mile”) directs a film that you could take your grandparents to and not be ashamed. I like the fact that the movie takes its time to develop the characters.
Our story is about Peter Appleton (Jim Carrey). He is an up-and-coming Hollywood scriptwriter. Just as his career is getting off the ground, it is discovered that he once attended a politically incorrect meeting in order to pick up a girl. This single moment in his life places him on the blacklist of the House Un-American Activities Committee. He is issued a subpoena to testify and trade a list of names in order to purge him of the accusations.
Peter steps into a bar to drown his sorrows and leaves the scene driving under the influence of alcohol. He has an accident and drives his car off a bridge. Peter is discovered by Stan Keller (James Whitmore) and he can’t remember how he washed up on shore. Stan takes Peter to a local diner for some breakfast and to see the local doctor, Dr. Stanton (David Ogden Stiers). He looks familiar to everyone, but Peter cannot recall his own name.
Our mystery man is spotted by Harry Trimble (Martin Landau). Harry sees the stranger as his son, Luke, who was lost in the war. Peter begins to assume Luke’s identity. His old girlfriend, Adele Stanton (Laurie Holden), tries to help him jog his memory. Luke’s resurrection brings unity and new purpose to the town. He even helps his dad restore the local palace movie theater called “The Majestic”. Just as Peter begins to have his memory restored—the government catches up to his location.
The following scenes of testimony before Congress are both moving and memorable. I don’t want be guilty of scene spoiling, but you should bring some Kleenex with you (I wish I had). This film is a refreshing breath of fresh air. There is little profanity, but there are some religious exclamations. There is no sex or violence. It is a film for the entire family. It is a piece of history that reminds us all how precious our freedoms are. It is a movie that reminds us why we are fighting against terrorism. Without a doubt—this is the BEST film of 2001. I hope it’s successful and Hollywood would be motivated to make more just like it. Thank you Castle Rock and Mr. Darabont—I just knew you could do it!