Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
thing you can't accuse a Charlie Kaufman film of is being predictable.
The screenwriter is putting together the greatest mind-fuck of a career in
modern cinema. I don't know if anyone else in Hollywood could even
come up with the ideas behind
Being John Malkovich, Adaptation or Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,
but I do know that no one else could bring his peculiarly Dali-esque puzzle
box quality to popular moviemaking. It is not a coincidence that even
though none of his films were huge moneymakers, some of the biggest names in
Hollywood are lining up to work with him. John Cusack, Cameron Diaz,
John Malkovich, Tim Robbins, Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper,
George Clooney, Julia Roberts... all of these stars and more have wrapped
their talents around Kaufman's warped world-view.
latest film continues the star-studded tradition, bagging Jim Carrey and
Kate Winslet as the stars and such top-of-the-liners as Mark Ruffalo,
Kirsten Dunst, Tom Wilkinson and Elijah Wood in glorified supporting roles.
Now, if you have read many of my other reviews in this section, then you
know that I am no fan of Jim Carrey. In fact, the only movie in which
I have ever been impressed by his acting work (one may say impersonation)
was in his uneven Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon. (And
don't even try to tell me about The Truman Show, it was a good enough
film but Carrey's constant mugging undermined all the fine work everyone
else was doing.)
Well, I have to give props, Carrey is spectacular here. His character
of Joel Barish is a wonderfully complex, introverted, disappointed, angry
man. Carrey's wilder tendencies are kept in check (no talking with his
butt) and because of this he is able to create a layered performance of
wonderful subtlety. One of the best parts of Carrey's portrayal is the
fact that he allows Winslet to be the funny one. Her character is the
more flamboyant one, so it is only natural that she be the one who demands
the attention. Winslet is also surprisingly up to the task, she is
best known for deep drama and she shows quite a flair for humor.
would fill a book to try to explain the plot of Eternal Sunshine, so
instead I will give you a thumbnail sketch and allow you to experience the
peculiar (but in a good way) particulars of this fractured fairytale
Carrey is Joel Barish, a quiet, repressed middle management exec whose life
was a boring rut until he meets Clementine (Kate Winslet), a beautiful but
wacky (different color hair almost weekly) commitment-phobic woman who
brings a passion and joie de vivre to Joel's life that he has never
experienced. Unfortunately, relationships with passionate people can be
combustible, and after they break up in a spectacularly ugly fashion Joel
can't decide whether he wants to try again. The decision is made for
him when he runs into Clementine and she acts as if they never met before.
He finds out that she went to a special doctor to have his memory surgically
is a fascinating idea, although maybe not quite as original as everyone says.
Former Seinfeld scribe Peter Mehlman had come up with the idea of a
doctor who specializes in removing bad recollections in a 1999 episode (called "Memories of Me")
of his brilliant, short-lived, and now sadly mostly forgotten sitcom It's
Like, You Know... Now I have no idea whether Charlie Kaufman saw
that episode or it was just a matter of brilliant minds thinking alike.
I will say though, he takes the germ of a good idea and expands on the
directions that Mehlman never even touched on.
of the film takes place in Joel's mind, when he decides in anger to erase
Clementine from his brain. However, as the procedure is being done, he
has second thoughts, and must spend much of the rest of the movie dashing
through the rooms of his psyche trying to hide his recollections of his
ex-lover to keep them away from the invasive procedure.
film captures the dream state better than most any film ever made. It
is also surprisingly clear-eyed on the little ways that things which make
you love someone can just as easily lead you to despise them.
Eternal Sunshine of
the Spotless Mind
is a movie that you'll probably have to
watch two or three times to truly appreciate the deep and twisted map of the
story. There are no easy answers in this plot. Just like in real
Copyright ©2004 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.Posted:
January 8, 2005.