Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
It is a common thought after a difficult breakup in a love affair for the parties to think to themselves, ‘if only I could forget’. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind explores this as if as reality. In this strange world created by Charlie Kaufman and Michael Gondry it is possible to specifically target and remove memories of another person. Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet) were lovers; to their mutual dismay their affair ended miserably prompting Clementine to seek the services of Lacuna Inc. headed by Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson). Mierzwiak has the ability to completely remove all traces of Joel from Clementine’s memory. When Joel finds out he seeks a bizarre revenge by submitting to the procedure himself. In the middle of the procedure Joel recants to some degree and tries desperately to hide memories of Clementine in the recesses of his mind. Try as he might to save the more cherished memories of Clementine those also fall to the mind wipe. It would appear fate feels the need to step in, Joel and Clementine are somehow destined to be together and each is oddly drawn back to each other. Joel leaves work under a compulsion to be in a certain spot at a certain time, a time and place where Clementine would be. So we are confronted with a battle between science and fate, one that catches Joel and Clementine in the middle and provides the basis for a truly enjoyable film.
This film represents an exceedingly rare form of film one that is enjoyable yet requires the audience to actually pay attention and think. Not only do we need to invoke the thought processes of our brains we are asked here to think out of the box. Now, while you are watching this forget science, in fact, forget reality, just go with the flow and let the movie surround you and draw you in. What makes this film work is it has a pure emotional heart to it. We have all seen a myriad of love stories and perhaps felt there are no new variations to be had but Sunshine proves that is wrong. Recently the film 50 First dates explored a similar theme but while that film choose a more comedic path this movie blends comedy, drama and romance in just the right proportions like a fine recipe. There is something emotionally satisfying about seeing these people, meant to be with each other, find love even when they don’t realize that they are soul mates. In the midst of so many mindless action flicks and CGI spectaculars it is reassuring that some folks in charge at the studios respect the audience enough to expect them to think about what is presented on the screen.
When most people think of Jim Carrey they say to themselves, buffoon, perhaps rightly so. Still, this man has a wealth of talent that is rarely explored. When I first saw the Truman Show I was impressed that he could actually act. Here, he again puts aside the more childish aspects of his public persona and takes this role seriously. He provides us with a three dimensional look into the inner workings of Joel, he makes this character believable and one we each can identify with on an emotional level, this one of his finest performances to date. Kate Winslet has had what many describe as an ‘uneven career’ but that is only because she is willing to explore quirky roles most actresses would not consider. Even in the worse of films she has shown talent beyond many of her peers. Here, in an intelligently written and well crafted film her talent finally has a showcase to really shine. Rather than taking the easy way out and playing Clementine solely for laughs Winslet provides this character with an emotional center. The women in the audience will be able to understand her motivations while at the same time wanting the couple to be reunited. There is a natural chemistry between Winslet and Carey, one that provides an easy going flow to the film. There is passion here, whether they are fighting or falling in love again it comes across realistically on the screen. Even the ancillary characters are well cast here. Tom Wilkinson is perfect as the strange scientist that has made of career out of inflicting brain damage on his clients. This also provides a subtle little bit of humor that this society is willing to submit to physical damage to make life easier. To her credit Kirsten Dunst is willing to take on smaller roles like this obviously because she was impressed by the project. Here is one of the up coming hot A-List actresses cast in leading roles and guaranteed to draw box office dollars. Here, her role is small but expertly crafted.
Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman is a man used to strange, off centered views of this world. Just look at his previous work in "Being John Malkovich" and "Adaptation", not exactly what you would call Hollywood mainstream. Here he takes an implausible plot device, memory wipe, and makes one of the most human films presented. Selective removal of memory has been around as a theme for a while, just look at Total Recall, but here it doesn’t drive the plot it merely set the stage. Director Michael Gondry takes the excellent script by Kaufman and brings it realistically to the screen. He paces the film perfectly, each scene builds upon one and another leading to an enjoyable ending. As memories are destroyed he visually displays this by having people literally fade from the screen. I hope this pair continues their collaboration in the future.
The DVD is excellent; Universal has scored a home run once again. The audio is presented in a full, rich Dolby 5.1 and an even better DTS mix. The video is clear with a near perfect color balance. Included as extras are A Conversation with Jim Carrey and Director Michel Gondry, where Carey does let loose a bit and a commentary track featuring Gondry and Kaufman, one that gives us excellent insight into these creative men. Rounding the extras off are deleted Scenes, Polyphonic Spree "Light & Day" Music Video, and a Lacuna Commercial. This is one of the best films I have seen in a long while and one that should be well represented come award season.
How happy is the blameless vestal's lot!