Jade's Trick

Reviews, Spotlights, and Randomosity of all things under the sun.

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Sunday, June 19, 2005

"I'm leaving, and I'm taking the monkey with me." -- The Majestic

Now, I've got a metric ton of free time this week, so I thought instead of a review, I'll give all my other reviews a nice polish for next weekend. I might end up doing a review as well, but if I don't, I'll toss up another post reminding you why. In other news, I'm going to stop forcing myself to use passive voice for the first sentence of the actual review.

I know I'm in the minority, but I really like The Majestic. It's not The Godfather or Star Wars: The Empire Striked Back, but it is nevertheless one of my favorite movies, sporting great acting, great drama, great cinematography, good humor; basically, it's the whole package. In my oh-so-humble opinion, the movie did as poorly as it did because of the expectations the public had of Jim Carrey. Audiences thought they were in for a standard Pet Detective-like mindless poop joke romp and instead got a mostly serious acting-heavy drama.

The story sounds a little cheesy, and it kinda is, but for the most part, the movie pulls it off pretty convincingly. Peter Appleton (played magnificently by Jim Carrey) writes movie scripts for Hollywood in the early 50's and is on his way to catching a Big Break when someone fingers his for a Commie, causing the movie studio to suspend all business with him (at least, until after he gets by the charges), his actress girlfriend to dump him, and a local bartender named Jerry to glean a small fortune from profits made by selling the very depressed Peter quite a bit of alcoholic beverages. After filling his stomach with said alcoholic beverages, Peter decides that a nice long coastal drive would really hit the spot. He drives for a while, crashes his car on a bridge, falls into the water, and thwacks his head against the concrete foundation of a leg of the bridge, causing (gasp!) amnesia! (This is the Limburger of which I spoke; don't worry, it only looks bad from the outside) . And it goes from there.

The movie's strongest strength is it's acting. Jim Carrey pulls off Peter Appleton, Wide-Eyed Amnesia Victim, and Luke Trimble Wannabe with perfection and poise, never for a moment wavering. Jim Carrey is well known for his facial expressions (most his his characters have been built from the ground up on them), and they here serve him well, blasting out with an interior view for anyone looking. For example, although the camera is tightly on him -- and only him -- during the opening scene and he only has one or two lines, we get an extremely good idea about what his character is about (he's clearly aggravated that the movie executives are eviscerating his script, and yet he goes with the flow without blinking). Laurie Holden plays Luke Trimble's former fiance Adele Stanton who took the California State Bar Exam just prior to her appearance early on in the movie, and she also does a stellar job, particularly during the romantic scenes between her and Jim Carrey. She has this great ability to portray and communicate the awkwardness of the situations (as most of them, at least at first, are awkward; she and Luke were engaged just before Luke went overseas, and then he died) without making the audience awkward (I absolutely *loath* when movies make the audience feel awkward. I can get myself into awkward situations without paying, thankyouverymuch). The rest of the cast was good-to-very-good, but not particularly worth spending more time on.

This movie's cinematograhy sings. I mentioned the opening scene: it starts by playing the voices of people arguing over something, a movie. The darkness gives way to a closeup of Jim Carrey's upper torso and head, listening to more voices batting back and forth increasingly corny ideas about how to draw more tears from the eyes of the audiences. The shot says very specifically that although we need to know what they are saying for context, the speakers just aren't important. A bookend shot also plays near the end of the movie that functions much the same way, and I personally liked the symmetry. One more example: the pan shots of The Majestic's neon sign. Done beautifully well, these precisely capture the feelings of, well, majesty that the theater is said to possess.

Now we come to the part of the movie that is difficult to review: the preaching. Unfortunately, the movie has quite a bit of preaching against the censoring McCarthyism and the HUAC did in the 50s. The good news is that this is decoy preaching; after all, history has come to the conclusion that McCarthyism and the HUAC were wrong, so preaching against them would be a horrible waste of everyone's time. The movie is really railing against the passive, those who want to avoid moral difficulties, and thus decide to take the easy road that robs them of dignity (see the description of the opening scene to see one way this plays out with Peter). It's still preachy, but at least it's not terribly irrelevant preaching. Just remember that every single mention by anyone of Commies builds towards Peter's eventual decision to grow a backbone and doesn't really have anything to do with Commies, and the movie seems a little less eye-roll inducing.

One last thing to mention before I get to the ratings: this movie has a number of decidedly funny parts. Although not a comedy, it's got a few balloons here and there to help lift the serious, and sometimes overcast, mood. Peter's drunken blatherings, Adele's hiccups (and their "cure"), Peter's discovery of his piano talent, Peter's answers to the HUAC's questions; these are funny moments all.

Action: 3.5/5 bothersome possums (Almost completely devoid of action, there was but one scene requiring it, and in that one scene, the action was extremely well done and extremely plausible).
Acting: 4.75/5 lighthouses (Excellent performances from Jim Carrey and Laurie Holden, and at good performances from everyone else. Denied a perfect 5 because I'm a miserly bastard when it comes to Acting).
Comedy: 3.5/5 grinning monkeys (The comedy here brought a huge smile to my face, but rarely made me audibly laugh and never split my sides).
Story: 3/5 convertible Mercedes' (Although it's got some decidedly corny parts to it, I feel the story overall works rather well).
Visuals: 4.5/5 neon lights (No computer effects from what I can tell and minimum effects otherwise, this movie gets most of it's style points from camera placement, and it does that very well. The setting also gets mad props for looking like the 50s should look, feel like the 50s should feel, and overall just being nifty).

Overall (not necessarily determined by the above categories): 4.5/5 Purple Hearts (Consider this oft-passed-by movie strongly recommended!).

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