“The Majestic” tells the story of an unwitting Moses who comes to a town in grief and leads it back from the banks of the river of denial.

“You seem an odd bit familiar to me. Do I know you?”  –Stan Keller

“The Majestic” tells the story of an unwitting Moses who comes to a town in grief and leads it back from the banks of the river of denial.

Set in 1951, “The Majestic” opens with Peter Appleton, a screenwriter with all the trappings of Hollywood success.  He’s a B-movie writer with hopes and plans for moving to the A-list.

But this changes when Peter is accused of being a communist. He is blacklisted and thrown off the studio lot. He loses his so-called life and is overcome with despair.

He decides to leave town, and on his way to nowhere in particular, he accidentally drives off a bridge and plunges into raging waters below.

Peter washes ashore in the small California town of Lawson, with this twist: he has amnesia. He remembers nothing about who he is or where he came from.

A local discovers Peter on shore and helps him into town, where other locals find Peter oddly familiar.  Before sundown, Peter is declared to be Harry Trimble’s son, Luke. Luke was one of 62 Lawson boys who went to World War II and never returned.

“Luke’s” return brings new life to the town. The mayor throws a party in honor of Luke. The town finally erects its World War II monument, coming to terms with the loss of so many loved ones. And Harry reopens the local theatre, The Majestic, which he had closed upon hearing the news of his son being missing in action.

But the witch-hunt is still on for Peter Appleton, the supposed communist screenwriter who’s using the movies to corrupt Americans.  The FBI finally tracks Peter down in Lawson, and Peter remembers that he is indeed Peter Appleton, not Luke Trimble.

Peter leaves Lawson confused and broken. The government has offered Peter a deal: name other communists and he can have his life back. But this sort of compromise agitates Peter, who has begun to assume the values of Luke Trimble. 

In testimony before the government committee, Peter invokes the memory of Luke and others who died during the war. Peter argues the First Amendment, and he alleges the committee represents the antithesis of what Lawson’s boys died for.

Peter’s life-changing moments are not unlike those of Moses.

Peter passes through the river and emerges a person with no memory. Like Moses in the desert, he must be a nobody before he can be a somebody.

And Peter does become a somebody. He becomes Luke Trimble, first as the townspeople simply project Luke’s character and values onto Peter. Later, Peter becomes Luke by the genuine demonstration of Luke’s ethic.

When Peter stands before the government committee, he pauses, drinks a glassful of water (in a beautiful cinematic moment), then summons the nobility of Luke and portrays the role of deliverer.

The water is a metaphor of becoming for Peter, just as passing through the water is a metaphor of becoming in the book of Exodus.

“The Majestic” is majestic indeed and well worth a look.

Mike Parnell is pastor of Burgaw Baptist Church in Burgaw, N.C.

MPAA Rating: PG for language and adult themes

Director: Frank Darabont

Cast: Peter Appleton/Luke Trimble: Jim Carrey; Harry Trimble: Martin Landau; Adele Stanton: Laurie Holden; Stan Keller: James Whitmore; Benjamin “Doc” Stanton: David Ogden Stiers; Leo Kubelsky: Allen Garfield; Emmett Smith: Gerry Black; Ernie Cole: Jeffery DeMunn. 

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