Screen Jems Film Review: ‘The Majestic’, America’s Answer To An Italian Marvel

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Margaret Jemian, Staff Writer

A good movie is one that you can watch with your friends and family over and over again, always noticing new details, and purely falling in love with every element. There are plenty of great ones out there, but finding the right one that fits all of your preferences is the tricky part. Sometimes a movie can be too long, too short, too boring, or completely overwhelming, and that’s okay! The search for your preferential film might be a long one, and not all movies you enjoy will be total winners. 

Set in 1950s Hollywood, screenwriter Peter Appleton (Jim Carrey) is slowly making a name for himself in the controversial film climate of the age. But when he gets blacklisted as a communist, he takes a drunken drive that lands him in a river, eventually drifting ashore and found by Harry Trimble (Martin Landau), a man who takes note of his striking resemblance to his missing war-hero son, Luke. Peter, who has sustained amnesia, embraces his new family, even reinstating the small town’s movie theatre, The Majestic. But as his memory slowly comes back to him, both Peter and the people around him begin to question his identity and motivations. 

I really do believe that this is the most underrated role by Carrey, whose portrayal of this desperate screenwriter turned amnesia-stricken Medal of Honor recipient is truly outstanding. While he is most famous for his comedic roles, Carrey’s more deeply dramatic roles seem to be the ones that impress me the most. 

In general, the cast not only delivers miraculous performances, but also houses several iconic names in entertainment. Between Martin Landau (Mission: Impossible (TV series), North By Northwest), David Ogden Stiers (M*A*S*H (TV series), Pocahontas), and Hal Holbrook (All the President’s Men, Magnum Force), my entire family was endlessly pointing out some of our favorite stars. 

Also, keep those ears sharp to listen for vocal cameos from directors Sydney Pollack, Garry Marshall, Paul Mazursky, Carl and Rob Reiner, and actor Matt Damon. 

Now as you’ve probably gathered, I thoroughly cherished this film in all its wonder. However, there were a couple things that will forever keep this off of my favorites list.

As much as I hate to say it, the film is way too long. That two and a half hour running time really starts to take a toll after about an hour and a half, as the plot has progressed, but not by much. Sure, it’s uber-deliberate, but let’s be real: you can only show him dancing at a welcome party for so long. 

Secondly, I started to get déjà vu halfway through. There is an Italian movie that my family has adored all of my life called Cinema Paradiso (1988) about a little boy and his love for movies. It won Best International Feature at the Academy Awards in 1990 and has made each and every viewer fall in love with it since. When comparing the two, their plots are vastly different, but similarities lie in every nook and cranny.

When I first saw The Majestic, I couldn’t help but wonder to myself if somewhere deep in the film studios of Southern California, a producer told a bunch of screenwriters to make an American version of the Italian classic, and this was the result. While it may not be plausible, I’d say it’s a valid theory. 

All negatives aside, I genuinely do recommend this film as a perfect family watch, possessing a warm story about acceptance and coming to terms with your identity (literally). Don’t let that 44% on Rotten Tomatoes fool you; it’s one of the good ones.