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Monday, May 21, 2012

The Majestic

Welcome, film lovers!  I have started an insane project!  It’s called 365 – I will watch a movie a day for a year and write about them.  Doesn’t that sound like fun?  So, sit back, relax, and place your bets on how fast I give up on this thing…

#362: The Majestic (2001)

In honor of the fact that I am currently working almost fulltime at a movie theatre, and it was both Frank Capra and Jimmy Stewart’s birthdays this past week, I have decided my next flick is the greatest Capra movie that isn’t a Capra movie.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: The Majestic.

The Players:

Peter Appleton: Played by Jim Carrey.  Peter is a Hollywood screenwriter in 1950s McCarthy era-Hollywood.  He gets “named” (if you don’t know what that means, google “Hollywood blacklist” and take a history class).  He loves being a screenwriter in Hollywood, and has a pretty blonde B-Lister girlfriend.

Harry Trimble: Played by Martin Landau.  He lives in the small town of Lawson, California, and owns/runs the town movie theatre The Majestic.  His wife has gone to that box office in the sky, and his son, Luke, died in WWII.  Or did he??

Adele Stanton: Played by the lovely Laurie Holden.  She is a new-millennium woman in the 1950s.  She just took the bar exam, with prospects of being a lawyer, and is made of enough spit and vinegar to out-do Jean Arthur.  She is the local doctor’s daughter, and  was once engaged to Harry’s son, Luke.

Doc Stanton: Played by David Ogen Stiers.  He’s the doctor who buys Peter breakfast the morning he lands in Lawson, and is Adele’s father.  He’s also skeptical about the whole situation with Peter.

Irene and Emmett: Played by Gerry Black and Susan Willis, respecitively.  They are the Majestic “family”.  Irene runs the candy counter, and Emmett is the main usher.  He makes sure the movie always starts on time, and he also is the first one to figure out Peter’s secret. (For some reason, I can't seem to find a picture of Susan Willis...)

Luke Trimble: Played by Matt Damon (voiceover).  He is Harry’s son and Adele’s love, and a beloved son of Lawson.  He died (or did he??) in WWII.

Cameos: EVERYONE.  The fun thing about movies dealing with Hollywood is that everyone is in them.  From the producers off-camera, to the HUAC Board (again, Google it, because I’m not explaining it for you).  They include Rob Reiner, Garry Marshall, Sydney Pollack, Ron Rifkin, Hal Holbrook… the list just goes on and on. 

The Rundown:
Peter Appleton loves his Hollywood life, even if off-screen Hollywood execs take his tear-jerker, poignant movie and change it so much it barely resembles itself.  He’s a working screenwriter with a beautiful B-list actress girlfriend.  His first movie is premiering (Sand Pirates of the Sahara).  Life is sweet.  Until, that is, he gets blacklisted because he got named by some chick he tried to impress in college by going to a Communist party meeting.  Depressed because his career is over, his girlfriend dumped him, and he has been incorrectly labeled a communist, Peter gets wasted, and drives his car over a bridge.  He lands on a beach in northern California, where he is discovered by some old guy walking his dog.  Peter has no idea who he is, or where he came from. 

The old man takes pity on Peter (say that three times fast!) and brings him into the perfect small-town of Lawson.  But, it’s eerie quiet there, with lots of memorials in the windows for sons lost in WWII.  Apparently, the town gave up a record number of lives, even has a statue to prove it.  The town motto: Lawson: We Will Sacrifice ALL our Sons.  The old man keeps stating that Peter looks “familiar”.  When they go into the diner, Mabel (who runs the diner?  Head waitress?) says the same thing.  As does Doc Stanton, who graciously pays for Peter’s breakfast upon the realization that his wallet has gone missing. 

Also at the diner is Harry Trimble, who, upon seeing Peter realizes why he looks so familiar.  He rushes to the Sheriff, and exclaims “It’s Luke!”  See, Peter bears a striking resemblance to his supposedly departed son, whose body was never found, but was declared dead (huh?). 

Harry goes to the doctor, where Peter is being checked out, and is adamant that Peter is actually his long-lost Luke.  He takes him home, to the apartment over the movie theatre The Majestic, which has been closed since Luke “died”, but now can re-open.

In the meantime, we are introduced to Adele, who has just returned from taking the Bar Exam.  She also has an endearing quirk of getting the hiccups when she gets nervous (Laurie Holden manages to demonstrate this adorably and not at all obnoxiously).  She meets Peter/Luke in the diner, and they head off to stroll down memory lane in an effort to restore Peter/Luke’s memory.  They go to places that are memorable and special to them, and when, in the lighthouse, she gets nervous hiccups, he cures them by kissing her, just like Luke used to to.

So, eventually, Peter/Luke agrees to reopen the Majestic, and embraces the possibility that he might be Luke.  The audience even begins to question whether or not he’s actually Luke.  Until the theatre shows Sand Pirates of the Saharah, and as “Luke” dies, so does Harry.  Peter realizes that he is not Luke afterall, and breaks it to the town after Harry’s funeral – also, when the HUAC people come after him.  They’ve been trying to find him throughout the film.

In his “Jimmy Stewart” moment, Peter takes on the HUAC and wins (sort of), and heads back to Lawson, fully embraced as himself by both the town and Adele. 

This is pure, old-school Hollywood schmaltz.  It is as though Frank Capra rose from the dead, or possessed everyone affiliated with this movie, and if you love Capra movies, you will love this one.  I love this movie, because I’m a sucker for Capra, it’s stunningly beautiful (seriously, the cinematographer is brilliant!) the performances are all dead-on, and I am also a sucker for movies about film history.  This does a great job of teaching about a real event and its repercussions in Hollywood, and also touches on a very delicate subject – the glorification of WWII.  The propaganda was so strong in the US, and the time is so often looked at with such rose-tinted glasses, we forget just how much was sacrificed in that war. 

If you don’t like Capra schmaltz, then run as fast as you can.  But if you’re anything like me, and you haven’t seen this movie yet, then you really, really should.  Also, Jim Carrey does a wonderful job playing it totally straight.  That alone is kinda worth checking it out.


EDIT: Just watched the trailer, and yes, that is the score to Little Women.  The actual score for this movie is beautiful in its own right, but hadn't been completed at the time of this trailer.

Tomorrow, heck if I know.  For now, that’s a wrap! 

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