The Majestic

The Majestic (2001)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Jim Carrey, Martin Landau
Extras: Deleted Scenes, In-Movie Movie, Trailer

Despite the fact that the movie was directed by director Frank Darabont, who has celebrated phenomenal successes with his previous films, and "The Green Mile" in particular, "The Majestic" was grossly overlooked when it hit movie theaters last year. Could it be that people don’t want to see Jim Carrey in a real, dramatic role? Or was the time just not right for such a heartfelt drama? We will never know, I guess, but fortunately Warner Home Video makes the movie available on DVD now, which will hopefully give more people the chance to witness this extraordinary film.

Peter Appleton (Jim Carrey) is a screenwriter in 50s Hollywood. His career looks bright after the highly successful release of his first film, and he is eager to work on more projects. But suddenly, Appleton finds himself the target of J. Edgar Hoover’s after-war witch-hunt for supposed communists – a very dark part of American history all by itself. Before he can testify, Appleton has a car accident and loses his memory. He strands in the small town of Lawson, California, where people mistake him for a long-lost war hero, who returned home. Without recollection of his true identity and past, Peter Appleton becomes Luke Trimble and begins to settle into the community. Everyone is convinced that he is Trimble, even his own father and his girlfriend Adele (Laurie Holden).
But then a number of unexpected things happen. Appleton gains back his memory, his father passes away, and the Feds are back on his trail!

"The Majestic" is an incredibly warm and heartfelt movie that certainly deserves to be seen. The story is eloquently told and constantly keeps the viewer guessing for the truth. Are Appleton and Trimble the same person, or is it just a strange coincidence? How will the story resolve itself?

Jim Carrey once again puts in a masterful performance, showing once again that he is fully capable of carrying a serious movie. (I do hope though that he won’t go the same route as Tom Hanks, who has sadly abandoned his comedic background entirely, in favor of more serious material.) There is not a single rubber-face moment in the film, no physical comedy, no slapstick. We get to see a side of Jim Carrey that is not seen very often, and he’s great at it! His portrayal has depth and is believable. His inner turmoil is tangible, and his stumbling attempts to remember and please people he seemingly forgot, innocent.
It would be wrong not to mention the powerful performances of the remaining cast, though. We get ot witness another marvelous performance by Martin Landau that proves just what an underrated and underused actor he is. Bob Balaban, Ron Rifkin and Laurie Holden, all remain memorable and stay with you after the movie has ended, with a believability and realism that is very touching throughout.
But also film’s direction is immaculate. Frank Darabont shows that he is up there with people like Robert Altman, fully capable of creating a character-driven drama that is engaging, surprising and filled with little twists and idiosyncrasies. The camera is always in the right place, capturing the moments in their natural beauty. The image framing is always interesting and more importantly, constantly adds details and a hint of revelation, making it a great film for repeat viewing.

Warner Home Video is bringing us "The Majestic" in its original 1.85:1 <$PS,widescreen> aspect ratio in a transfer that has been <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> TV sets. Since this is a new film, it is hardly surprising to find that the transfer is entirely devoid of speckles or blemishes, creating a very stable and clean look. The level of detail is very good, bringing the 50s era to full life. Colors are vibrant and beautifully rendered, and especially the scene where the Majestic Theater is re-opened literally glows in hues and gradients. Skin tones are faithfully rendered, giving the film balance and a natural look. The transfer’s black level has also been perfectly adjusted to accommodate deep and solid blacks, as well as shadows that are finely delineated with good detail resolution. The compression is free of artifacts, making "The Majestic" a please to view.

The DVD comes with an audio track in <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital>, as well as a French dub. The audio is making very good use of the surround channels, often creating very intimate moments where subtle ambient surround effects complete the illusion. But there are also "big" moments where surrounds are engaged in more aggressive ways to make sure the richness and dynamics of the original mix are full presented here. The frequency response is wide, creating good basses and clear high ends.

As extras, Warner Home Video has included the entire "Sand Pirates Of The Sahara" sequence, the Appleton-scripted movie scene shown in the film, featuring a great cameo by Bruce Campbell. Also included are seven deleted and alternate scenes that didn’t make it into the movie. They’re all presented in non-<$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> and also look great.

"The Hollywood Blacklist" is a text feature that offers more historical background on the House Un-American Activities Committee, which started the paranoid communist witch-hunt in 1947, and its effects on Hollywood as one of the prime targets. Many will remember that it had also affected the great Charles Chaplin, among countless others, and forced him to leave the country – although these indirect effects are not discussed in this particular feature. The DVD is rounded out by the movie’s trailer and a cast & crew listing.

"The Majestic" is an undiscovered gem in my opinion. Beautifully shot, masterfully told, gripping and emotional, the film has everything you’d expect from a great drama. Add to it the glorious 50s backdrop and its affiliation with Hollywood and you’ll quickly be caught up in the charm that is "The Majestic". Do make sure to check this DVD out!