Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Destroying Happily Ever After: The Majestic

I'm not a fan of romance movies. Too frequently when the movie ends I'm left thinking, "But - but they - how could he - that is going to cause SO MANY PROBLEMS!" As a cynic, I've decided it's my job to destroy the happily ever after so many movies choose as a happy wrap-up ending, by predicting how these romantic choices will play out in the rest of their lives. I hope to make this an ongoing segment of the blog, updated whenever I find a movie romance that pushes my buttons.

These posts will obviously contain spoilers (although if you're watching a romance, chances are you know the characters are going to end up together at the end anyway).

So. The Majestic.

This movie stars Jim Carrey as Peter Appleton, a Hollywood writer in the 1950s who is accused of having Communist ties and has to be brought up before HUAC. Before that can happen, though, he has a car accident which ends with him washed up on the beach somewhere with no memory of who he is. He makes his way to a nearby town, where the townspeople all mistake him for Luke Trimble, the town darling and a decorated soldier who was presumed killed in battle nine years earlier. Peter starts to make his life in this town, re-opening the movie theater Luke and his father ran together and connecting with Luke's fiancee, Adele (played by Laurie Holden).

After several months of living there, Peter remembers who he is. He tells Adele, who admits tearfully that a part of her knew he couldn't be Luke, but she wanted it to be him so badly she let herself believe it. The law finds Peter at the same time and offers him a prepared statement allowing him to renounce the Communist party and go free if he will provide them with some names. He tells Adele he's going to follow through with it, and she tells him he should fight instead, because he's innocent - and Luke would have fought for the right to freedom of speech.

Peter leaves to go read his statement to the court, but when he gets there (with all the townspeople listening to the proceedings on the radio), he ultimately finds himself unable to read his prepared statement and stands up for the right to say whatever he wants whenever he wants. Because this movie is a happy movie, this all somehow works out for him and he gets to go free. He returns to the small town, only to find the entire town waiting for him to welcome him as a hero. He finds Adele, kisses her, and over the credits song we see framed pictures of their wedding and their kids.



Adele has known Peter for a few months, during which he's acted as her former fiance, Luke. However, the main problem is that he's not Luke. He never will be. This is not necessarily a problem except for the fact that 1) he looks exactly like Luke, and, 2) he's been unintentionally masquerading as Luke this whole time. Any new personality traits or physical quirks that might be part of Peter's personality have just been incorporated into her perception of Luke over the past several months. So every time she looks at him, she's going to see Luke, even the parts of him that aren't very Lukelike.

The things she loves about him are the things she loved about Luke. She was upset when she discovered he didn't have strong moral convictions, not just because having strong moral convictions was a good thing, but because it made him less like Luke. ("I guess I really did have you two confused," she says angrily to him.) He then went off to court and did exactly what she said Luke would do. The line between Luke and Peter has gotten fuzzier.

Peter returns to Luke's town, marries Luke's girlfriend, works at Luke's job. He's made friends with Luke's friends. The awkward kid who looked up to Luke now looks up to him. His name may be changed, but he's essentially living Luke's life.

Eventually that's not going to work. Eventually he's going to do something else that's not Lukelike. Now, we don't know what that is, because we don't get to see much personality from Peter in the movie - he's just kind of a pushover until the end. But just considering the fact that Peter was from the city and Luke was from a tiny Mayberry-esque town, there should be some differences in the experiences they've had, how they think about things, and the way they act, even if we don't really see it in the movie. This is going to startle the townspeople, but most of all it's going to startle Adele. The Peter she "fell in love" with was essentially Luke - at least enough like Luke to make everyone think that's who he was.

Marrying someone who looks and acts exactly like your deceased fiance is... well, certainly a situation full of difficulties. It's impossible not to compare. Every argument they have is going to end with her saying, "Luke wouldn't do that!" Even subconsciously, she'll expect him to continue acting like Luke, and when he doesn't, it'll be a really unpleasant shock - reminding her over and over again that the first love of her life can never really come back to her. He, in turn, is going to resent all those comparisons and feel like she's never really loved him - which, of course, she probably hasn't.

This doesn't have a happy ending. That kiss at the train station is not the end of a beautiful love story, it's the beginning of a seriously complicated one.

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