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The Majestic

Year: 2002
Production Co: Castle Rock
Studio: Warner Bros
Director: Frank Darabont
Cast: Jim Carrey, Martin Landau, Bob Balaban, Hal Holbrook, Matt Damon, Carl Reiner, Rob Reiner, Paul Mazursky, Sydney Pollack, Garry Marshall
Until writing this review, I'd never seen a Frank Capra movie but feel I know what to expect - this was described as 'Capra-esque' by the distributor marketing gloss and it's obviously what the filmmakers want everyone to feel about it.

But having now seen what the film industry think Capra-esue is, I know I've seen in emulated a hundred times - the quiet, small American town where the kids make snowmen in the square, everyone knows everyone, that sort of thing.

Peter Appleton (Carrey) finds himself washed up on the beach there with no memory of who he is after a car crash. We know he's been targeted by the communist witch hunt that scoured Hollywood in the 1950's, that his career is over and his girlfriend has dumped him.

But the people of Capra-esque Lawson think he's Luke Trimble, the war hero son of local movie theatre owner Harry (Landau), who he's the spitting image of.

With little other choice, he finds his way back into everyone's life, from friends to his former lover. Planning to rebuild the movie theatre and bring a slice of cheesy Americana back to town, he gradually finds himself happy.

After awhile, the inevitable happens. When his own movie plays in the theatre, it tips him off. At the same time, the commie hunters and studio lawyers catch up with him to get his testimony, where he uses Luke's memory to inspire him to stand up for what's right about the home of the brave and land of the free.

Mostly feel-good fairy floss, albeit with a more mature outlook than a straight out comedy (references to the town boys lost in the war, the Un-American Activities Committee).

But from the time the studio head observes to Peter that the Constitution and Declaration of Independence are nothing more than contracts, things get more interesting, and despite the hand-on-heart all-American values in the climactic testimony, the principles are sound.

The performances (including Carrey's straight laced one) are all very good. There are a lot of themes - and it's not always plain which one is the predominant - but it's a long movie so they fit together well.

Hardly a triumph, but Darabont is a great director who gets a well-delivered story out of any script, so it succeeds in mood and intent.

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