A timely parable

The Majestic
Directed by Frank Darabont. Starring Jim Carrey, Laurie Holden, Martin Landau, James Whitmore and Amanda Detmer. Rated PG.
Rated 3.0 I’ve never cared much for the facial contortions and idiotic utterances of comedian Jim Carrey, but he comes off pretty well in director Frank (The Green Mile) Darabont’s new film, The Majestic.

Set during the McCarthy era of the early 1950s, the movie features Carrey as a screenwriter seemingly content with Hollywood suits hacking the guts out of his stories and inserting cornball gimmicks to wring a few sentimental tears (and a lot of box office bucks) out of moviegoers. Even so, he’s planning a pet project filled with real human emotions and everyday struggles. However, when the House Committee on Un-American Activities orders him to appear (seems he ignorantly chased a Red skirt back in his college days), Carrey fears he’ll never see his story realized.

Out of work, dumped by a starlet (former Chicoan Amanda Detmer, who unfortunately has barely five minutes of total screen time), despondent and drunk, Carrey drives up the coast, accidentally plunges into a river, and rises with no memory. Kindly James Whitmore helps him into town. Everyone there gradually starts thinking he resembles a MIA World War II hero—the town lost many sons during the war; Carrey must be one returning at long last.

Suddenly, Carrey has a decent, loving father (Martin Landau), an intelligent, warm girlfriend (Laurie Holden, late of TV’s The X-Files), and a rewarding job (restoring the family cinema, The Majestic). Unknowingly, he’s living the story he wanted to tell. But back in LA, the House committee thinks Carrey’s gone AWOL, so it sends some federal goons looking for him. His “story” is about to be trashed again.

While predictable, the film is also pleasantly satisfying, helped by inspired direction and camera work, a strong supporting cast, and Carrey’s unprecedented restraint. At a time when many Americans would all too happily wash their First Amendment rights down the river with the main character’s memory, it’s heartening to encounter a parable that, however awkwardly at times, reminds us of our right to think and say whatever we wish without fear of condemnation. Ultimately, The Majestic does just that.