Majestic, The (SE)/ C+, A
Warner/2001/112/ANA 1.85

     It's 1951. Hollywood is in the throes of a Communist witch hunt. As the vacuum cleaner of suspicion touches an ever-widening carpet of writers and directors and actors, even minor figures like B writer Pete are fingered for examination. Careers are broken and the intellectual artistic community is in a state of despair. Pete's not the kind of guy to stand up to the tyranny. But his life is about to be flipped like a pancake that does know whether it wants to be blueberry of buttermilk. Suddenly finding himself washed ashore in Lawson, a small California coastal town, Pete must examine his life as the realizations of truth are slowly exposed.

Surrounded by the folks of

     Director Frank Darabont has some terrific raw material to work with in The Majestic. Michael Sloane's screenplay might even have seemed more logical and less full of holes on paper. You can imagine a compelling film evolving from the basic ingredients. But in the end, The Majestic is a rather plastic film. The look is plastic, the sentiments are plastic. Even though you do want to like The Majestic, the artificial nature of the delivery presents an insurmountable barrier. At its most poignant, there's an underlying sense of plastic as in the scenes during the testimony at the blacklist hearings. The Majestic does pull successfully at your heart strings in this section. The speeches are righteous, the acting is fine, but all that leads up to Pete's towering moment of self revelation is so false that you feels suckered by the emotional pull.  There are devices in the film that do not seem wholly truthful. Pete's identical appearance to Luke, even given the indications that the resemblance is stretched by people's desire to see what they want, is difficult to accept. The romance between Pete and Adele is far from convincing, even given their supposed history.
     Darabont willingly spreads on the blatantly emotional jam with relish. There's been lots of comparisons between Darabont's work on The Majestic and the work of Frank Capra. But Capra's work, sentimental and simplistic as it often was, had an honest core. It was made before synthetics had taken over so much of our society. As hard as Darabont tries to capture the innocence, he fails. There's far too much syrup in his soda mix and the artificial you should be forewarned that artificial flavoring is pervasive. Strange as it may seem, I was more reminded of the wacky satirical tone of Preston Sturges than of Capra.
     Jim Carrey is good enough as Pete, the hungry Hollywood writer ready to compromise art and conscience with little compunction. But Pete's turnabout doesn't get sufficient justification from the script. It's a tough nut for Carrey to crack, though again, he is especially effective in the hearing scenes. I found Martin Landau bordering on offensive as Harry Trimble, the owner of The Majestic theater and a father in desperate emotional search for his son lost in World War II. James Whitmore is a welcome voice of small town nostalgia as Stan Keller, the man who finds Pete on the beach. Laurie Holden manages to hiccup her way through the part of Adele with good nature.
    The Majestic is dressed in gorgeous DVD clothing. Blacks are incredibly glossy infusing every color with astounding depth. Overall color saturation is exquisite. Color resolution produces an a beautiful array of colors from brightly saturated flowers to the warm tones of the interior of the movie theater. The images are wonderfully sharp. Check out the wonderful shadow detail in that first bar room scene. It's in perfect balance. The lighting tone is captured to perfection. Night scenes glitter. Every lighting situation is breathtaking beautiful. Mark Isham's sentimental score is delivered with open purity on the Dolby Digital 5:1 surround track. 
     Warner has packaged The Majestic as a special edition, but the lack of an audio commentary is conspicuously absent. The seven deleted scenes fill in some minor blanks. The complete almost five minute sequence of the movie within the movie Sand Pirates of the Sahara is fun. A short essay on the Hollywood Blacklist era adds necessary background for the uninformed.


Selections from the Feature Archive include articles on Akira KurosawaFrank Darabont, Blonde Bimbos, Hollywood Street Gangs, or Vietnam: The Hollywood Pariah, and many more....
Sturges Emerges
The Wacky World of Preston Sturges

Preston Sturges was Hollywood's resident comic genius for more than a decade. His movies are timeless. Click on his image to read all about it.

ISF Monitor Calibrations in the Tristate New York area. Lots of hardware info and frequent hardware peaks from video expert Kevin Miller. They may be judgmental, but that's the point, isn't it. Lots of DVD reviews plus news and more.

The National Film Preservation Foundation
(NFPF) is the nonprofit organization created by the U.S. Congress to save America's film heritage.

DVD Demystified
makes it all clear. The official Internet DVD FAQ for the Usenet newsgroups.
A home theater site filled with a host of useful information, including links to many other site.

Digital Film Forum transparent background.jpg (22246 bytes)
ISF Course Instructors Jim Burns and Kevin Miller are hosting the Digital Film Forum. Join professionals and enthusiasts for lively home theater discussion.

Truman Show/A,A-
Powered by the consummate taste and directing perfection of Peter Weir. Jim Carrey gives a marvelous performance. Not to be missed!