of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Ebert:1/2 Rolling Stone:1/2 TV Guide:
minor plot points revealed!
How can I explain how perfect this movie is? Let me first explain what it isn't. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is not a "Jim Carrey" movie. There is no Dumb and Dumber goofiness or Ace Ventura ass-talking. The simple-minded should be directed to the theatre next door playing Eurotrip. This is Truman Show Carrey. Drama first with a touch of comedy. Calling it drama is even a stretch because this is Charlie Kaufman drama. Kaufman is the mad genius who wrote Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. Eternal Sunshine is a wonderful addition to his absurd little box-set of work.
This is the first masterpiece film of 2004. I had completely unrealistic high expectations for the movie and it far surpassed all of them. I already want to see it again and again. I cannot, at the moment, recommend a better film currently in theatres.
Simply stated, the movie is about two people who have their memories of each other erased to forget about their unhappy love affair.
Trying to explain in more detail, the procedure is administered first to the wild and impulsive Clementine and then, in retaliation, to her ex-lover Joel. Clementine's procedure seems to have been successful and one of the lab techs at Lacuna, the company that erases the memories, has collected the good remnants of her relationship with Joel to use in his own pursuit of her. Meanwhile Joel, who is still undergoing the procedure is having second thoughts midway and begins to hide the "good" and cherished memories of Clementine among his childhood memories where the Lacuna techs won't think to look. The techs at first don't notice this because they are having a little drunken drug party in Joel's apartment while the computer automatically seeks out and destroys Joel's memories. Eventually they see what Joel is up to and call for Lacuna founder Dr. Howard Mierzwiak to come and assist. Eventually the process is successful but Joel and Clementine have left a clue for each other in hope that they will once again be able to connect.
The film takes the "artistically broken chronology" last seen in 21 Grams and all Quentin Tarantino movies and takes it to the next level. If you are one of those people who cannot follow or understand a movie that doesn't unfold in a straight forward way from beginning to end, then I seriously advise you to stay away from this film. Besides the now typical shuffling of events, the bulk of the film is seen from inside the mind of Joel as he remembers moments with Clementine, then loses them, and tries to hide others away in more distant and unrelated memories. If this sounds confusing you should see it on the screen!
Try to imagine a distant memory. Now keep in mind that as you do this you are probably thinking of a few dozen other things and if your eyes are open you are seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and perhaps even tasting new stimuli at the same time as well. Now imagine a visual representation of all of these things seen simultaneously on a TV or movie screen. This is a good comparison to what most of the film consists of. Images and scenes of Joel's memories overlap, appear and disappear all around him in no order and often while he is still imagining himself in them.
The special effects of the film are very subtle most of the time. There are a few instances where something big happens but in most of the scenes we see a slow fading of all the elements of the represented memory. For example, as a scene unfolds in a bookstore, we see that all of the books gradually become blank and white. On a street, signs slowly erase themselves. In a train station the crowd slowly evaporates one by one until Joel is the only one left. At first you may not even notice it but as more of Joel's memories are erased the process becomes more chaotic and frightening.
The actors are all perfect. Absolutely perfect. Jim Carrey has never been better. This, like Truman, is the kind of role that he is best at. I love his Farrely Brothers style comedy too, but this is the next step in his evolution as an actor. Kate Winslet is also perfect as the ditzy impulsive blue-haired object of Joel's affection. The Lacuna techs, Elijah "Frodo" Wood and Mark Ruffalo do a great job too. Frodo is cute and a little sad while Ruffalo displays great geek charm and sincerity. Kirsten Dunst does a fine job as the quirky receptionist who is having a fling with Ruffalo and Tom Wilkinson is excellent as Lacuna founder Dr. Howard Mierzwiak.
One last thing I have to mention is that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a beautiful and very touching romance. The affection, of all the characters for each other, just pours off the screen. In the end the film is about love and how the memory of it is just as precious.