A look at the film ‘The Majestic’ directed by Frank Darabont.
The subject of ‘personal identity and reinvention’ is one near and dear to me right now. I find myself at a point in life where I am undergoing a massive transformation both mentally and physically and I’m having to revaluate exactly who Rob Roy is and what his place in the world is.
In the meantime while I’m figuring that out, I’ll remain a cynical windbag with an unhealthy interest in films and a tiny website that nobody reads that isn’t updated regularly enough… So, business as normal.
I’ve had to change my mindset to accommodate a radical weight-loss drive. I had an epiphany middle of this year and I realised I was eating my way into an early grave. Since then, I have shed over six-stone, That’s forty kilo’s for our metrically inclined friends. And there’s plenty more to lose so I’m keeping this train rolling. That’s my physical transformation.
I’m learning again how one can go for walks without feeling like his legs are about to give out after a few paces. How clothes can fit comfortably without having to have a whole bunch of X’s on the label and how cars don’t have to sit two inches lower on one side when you sit in them.
Mentally, things are a bit of a different story. I’ve had some victories, I’ve had a few set-backs. And some things have affected me more than others. The thing that has troubled me the most is the discovery of the term ‘Neuro-Divergent’.
This is an umbrella term that covers a very wide range of conditions and behaviours, but the more I research it, the more I find things I am able to strongly identify with and recognise in my past and present. The only thing I’ve yet to gain any insight on is what this may mean for my future. Will I need big banner that reads ‘Bear with me’ that I can unfurl at any given time when things start to feel a bit heavy, or will I simply continue to blunder forwards and hope for the best?
Who knows? Things used to be very simple; you were either normal, or you were Rain Man. But as scientific understanding deepens and we realise that the human condition is one that goes deeper than the Mariana Trench, so some of us find ourselves floundering as we try to realise our place in the world.
This sort of thinking brought me round to a film from way back in 2001. A film that seems to have gone largely unnoticed. That would be ‘The Majestic’; a charming and heart-warming film about lost identity, reinvention and the difficulty of deciding who you want to be Vs who you have been.
The film opens with Jim Carrey, a Hollywood screenwriter who finds himself underappreciated by studio producers and an unlikely target of an FBI investigation into suspected communists. After drinking his sorrows, he goes out driving and manages to go plummeting off a bridge into a raging river. He wakes up sometime later, devoid of his memories and identity in a town where he is (mistakenly) recognised as a long-lost local war hero.
As he tries to rebuild the life he has been given, he becomes a force of positivity and reinvigoration to those around him and he fits in well and is happy. But with any story of memory loss, there often comes the point of recall, the moment where the milk sours and reality comes crashing in.
For Carrey’s character, this comes with the awful realisation that the man everyone thinks he is, was likely killed in the war without his body ever being recovered. And so after losing him once already, to reveal the truth will ultimately rob the town of this person a second time. Does he live the lie, or does he do the right thing?
Well, watch the film to find out. It’s well worth the time spent doing so.
Producing and directing we have Frank Darabont. He may not have a portfolio quite as rich or varied as some other directors, but he’s certainly got a few titles under his belt that have gone down as noteworthy in their own right. Specifically ‘The Green Mile’ and the ever discussed ‘Shawshank Redemption’.
For acting talent, we have the aforementioned Jim Carrey playing straight. No being a bit of a twat, goofing about or overacting, just Carrey performing as a normal actor and doing a damned fine job of it too. Propping him up, we’ve got Laurie Holden, Martin Landau and Jeffrey DeMunn amongst others.
All do a fine job of turning words on a script into believable characters and ones whom we care for and support as the story unfolds. But the spotlight must fall on Carrey for what was a truly standout performance for this stage in his career. Sure, he’d already done ‘Truman Show’ and ‘Man on the Moon’ before this to prove he was a proper actor and not just an idiot, but because of the tone of ‘The Majestic’ and the nature of the story, it allows him to shine properly.
Experienced film-score veteran, Mark Isham, takes responsibility for the films musical heart. What he gives us is far from being a soundtrack that you’d rush out to buy on CD. Yet it sits in the film, unassuming and inconspicuous and helps to provide a very subtle orchestral cue, like subliminal sign-posts on a strange road, to remind us where we are and where we’re going.
It’s not going to set the world on fire like a John Williams theme might, but then a good soundtrack is one that goes largely unrecognised while the film is playing. Of course, the flip-side of that argument is that a truly remarkable score is one that manages to not pull people out of the film, but becomes iconic and a part of pop-culture. Think ‘Star Wars’, think ‘Jaws’, think ‘Harry Potter’… Isham may never be John Williams, but we have John Williams for that so it’s not a problem.
Perhaps the reason so few people talk about ‘The Majestic’ is because, when compared to all the other films that have done so well in the last twenty years, the whole thing can be taken as pretty unremarkable. It isn’t a technical masterpiece nor innovative. It doesn’t push boundaries on what is/was possible in the realms of movie-making. It has no extraordinary qualities to set it apart from thousands upon thousands of other titles.
Nothing explodes. Nobody has a fist-fight on a moving vehicle. There’s no computer generated fakery. The film is just simple, unadulterated story-telling. So, while dross like ‘Pearl Harbour’ and ‘Jurassic Park III’ were scooping up all the public’s attention, little gems like this were brushed aside.
And that’s exactly my point. Honest story films like this simply don’t get noticed any more. ‘The Majestic’ is a casualty of modern audience expectations. Unless the Eiffel Tower is falling over into a highway where twenty gagsters are having a shootout with the police, few people really care any more.
Yet here, we have a story that touches on all aspects of the psyche; managing to be all things at once that we can actually relate to. We have believable, likeable figures that have depth and warmth. We laugh and smile with them when it’s all going well. We feel sad for them when things go wrong. We instantly connect with each and every one of them.
I sensed the crisis, the terrible burden of knowledge and responsibility that Carrey’s character felt the moment his recall was triggered. Knowing who he was expected to be versus who he knew he was. The dilemma of admitting the truth to others and potentially hurting them and the ramifications of attempting to continue living under a mask.
I suspect many will be able to relate in some way. All of us wear a mask of some sort and we all have things that are hard for us to admit to others or that we keep closely guarded. ‘The Majestic’ gives us a wonderful vision of what acceptance might look like for those of us brave enough to take the masks off.
It’s an uplifting, feel-good film. Even better than that, it’s an uplifting, feel-good film that doesn’t have any violence, bad language or enormous innuendo which means that the BBFC gave it a PG rating, fit for family viewing. In fact, the film could provide positive reinforcement for younger minds about the importance of truth and the damage caused by not telling it.
Go ahead and find yourself a copy to buy. It’ll be in the £1 section in any CEx lucky enough to have one on their shelves or perhaps it’ll be available to stream from somewhere. There’s plenty to keep any keen cinephile happy for a couple of hours and you won’t feel like you’ve just pissed away your money on something that has wasted your time.
While you’re off watching ‘The Majestic’, I’m going to go and see if I’m ready to take my mask off. To see if I want to expose my real self to the world and to see if I can find acceptance too.
A reason why you should watch it: Jim Carrey being a likeable, realistic person and not a cartoon.
A reason why you shouldn’t watch it: No alien invasion, no spaceship battles and not a single utterance of the word ‘fuck’ or any of its derivatives.