B+
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Charlie Kaufman needs therapy.

When Joel (Jim Carrey) discovers that his ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) has had an experimental procedure to erase him from her memory, he is heartbroken.  When he can’t take it anymore, he finds Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson) and has the procedure done to him, with the help of some incompetent assistants played by Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood and Kirsten Dunst.  As Joel lay unconscious, his memories of Clementine and their relationship are gradually stripped away, until Joel realizes he doesn’t really want to lose her.  So, trapped in his head, he tries to smuggle Clementine to other parts of his brain in the hopes that the procedure will fail.

This is a very creative and clever film with some good performances and some terrific imagery.  Like Robin Williams, Jim Carrey is at his best when playing quirky unhappy people in dramatic circumstances – as opposed to irritating clowns bouncing off the walls.  Joel arguably doesn’t have much of a personality, but Carrey, well, carries him well through the journey.  Clementine also seems to be missing a little something.  It’s unclear why she’s so messed up in the head, but Kate Winslet is charming and likeable.

Tom Wilkinson is sturdy as the doctor and Mark Ruffalo makes a believable nerdy assistant.  Kirsten Dunst is again attractive and appealing in her own little ugly way.  Elijah Wood seems bizarrely miscast in a role that seems written for someone older and less hobbit-like.

Armed with a pretentious and meaningless title, director Michel Gondry, who also directed Charlie Kaufman’s profound but maligned Human Nature, has made himself quite the demo reel with this film.  This is a matter of personal taste.  Whereas the relentlessly persistent digital and focus effects are truly exceptional, some may feel that the director is ever-present in the scene; directorial narcissism in which a scene can’t be functional unless the director has some sight gag in the end.  But then again, when you’re making a film that primarily takes place inside someone’s head, the audience really must depend on the director to give them a frame of reference.

The story starts out a bit disjointed and confusing.  Somewhere in the middle of the film, the beginning will start to make sense and the end will seem inevitable.  Ultimately, Eternal Sunshine of the blah blah blah is worth the price of admission.  Many are sure to find it obnoxiously bizarre for no good reason, but at its core, the story intelligently examines the dynamics of long-term relationships and their inevitable self-destructive tendencies. 

More than the film’s tagline, “Would you erase me?” the question being asked here is would we ever enter into relationships knowing they really couldn’t last?  Yes, I think we would.  B+
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