Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Day Forty-Five: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Ranking on IMDb Top 250: #59
Year: 2004
Director: Michael Gondry
Starring: Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet

I tend to steer clear of romantic comedies. Some of that is because, yes, ninety-nine percent of them are among the most shamefully profit-motivated, dire pieces of trash ever committed to film, but perhaps an even bigger part is that I've never been in love myself, and I can't relate to characters who would get into all kinds of wacky antics for a woman or a man. Boiled down to its essentials, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a romantic comedy. Sure, it's a mind-bending, surreal, Charlie Kaufman-penned romantic comedy, but it's still very much within the genre. All that being said, it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that while I enjoyed this movie, it didn't speak to me, because I could never see myself getting so hung up on someone that I'd want to surgically erase them from my memory. I won't hold that against the film, though, because I know that most of the population has felt that way, and I'm just a loser who doesn't know any better.

But seriously, folks – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is an entertaining and truly innovative movie with Charlie Kaufman's indelible stamp all over it. It's one of his best scripts, right up there with Adaptation and Being John Malkovich, and the script is what really drives it. Michael Gondry does his part to create the dream world that most of the movie takes place in, and his sets straddle the line between David Lynch surrealism and Terry Gilliam world-building, to aesthetically pleasing effect. Much has been said about Jim Carrey's performance as neurotic writer Joel Barish. For example, he's not a drooling idiot with a stretchy face and a penchant for physical comedy and stupid voices like every other character he's ever played. Carrey actually pulls off the role with class, and never resorts to the safety of goofiness that he usually relies upon. Kate Winslet is good but never great, and the supporting cast is excellent except for Elijah Wood, who annoys the shit out of me every time he plays someone besides Frodo. (That laugh, why the fuck does he laugh like that? Why do they let him?)

Conceptually, the movie is pretty sweet. The idea of a company – using some very real-seeming technology – erasing people's memories of their exes for a price is pretty fascinating and leads to lots of ethical questions, which Kirsten Dunst's character addresses in the last reel. If Lacuna Inc. were real, its business would probably be outlawed, whatever benefits it offered its clients. As a premise for a movie, the company's existence is interesting, and the explanation for its product is just fleshed-out enough to be believable. Charlie Kaufman really knocked this one out of the park.

So I don't fully understand the motivations of the characters in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and maybe it is just a little bit hipster, but for what it sets out to do, I can hardly imagine any movie pulling this off better. I really liked it.

The Good: Charlie Kaufman is one of the best screenwriters in Hollywood today, and this script is no exception. "Psychologically taut," as his mom might say.

The Bad: Elijah Wood is bad, but not distractingly so. From a personal perspective, the worst part is what a matter of life and death is made of relationships. But that's just because I'm a cynical bastard, so I'll go with Elijah Wood.

The Skinny: #59 is definitely too high, but I could go for this being on the list somewhere in the 100s.


  1. Brad. You're not a loser. But maybe a cynical bastard....haha I'm just kidding.

    Anyway, I would never want to erase even the worst experiences from my memory. The way I see it, each one has made me who I am, for better or worse. That was my problem with this movie when I first watched it--I, like you, just didn't understand the motivation.

  2. This is one of my absolute favorite movies.
    It's not one of the three but I would guess it probably easily has a battle for my 4-10 spots.
    It's just so well written and acted and directed.
    Did you know that there is no cgi used in this movie (except for the house crumbling near the end)?
    Also when he keeps on trying to pin down Clementine in the house and she keeps appearing in other rooms and wearing different clothes there are no cuts or special effects.
    She is wearing layers of costumes and going through little trap doors/ taking off one layer as she walked through.
    Also when he "wakes up" in the train station and she is flung away from him they actually had a bungee thing attached to her that they released and everyone who was cast as an extra had very specific movement directions.
    One last thing. When the two kids walk by they didn't use computers to fill in Winslet or Carey's voice. The two actors were standing behind the camera and talking into a microphone while watching the kids.
    Genius and passion directing. And it goes on record as one of Kaufman's most successful and personally satisfying collaborations.
    There is a lot to love (not like, love) in this movie and I feel like it could be #1 and I wouldn't be disheartened.
    Also, never use the word hipster. It's kind of a stupid term.

  3. Huh, I did not know any of that stuff, really interesting stuff. Gondry is pretty damn clever.

    And yeah, calling anything hipster is a cheap shot, but you won't see it on here too much, because none of Wes Anderson abortions are on the list. ;-)

  4. Brad! You hate Wes Anderson?!
    Thank goodness!
    Everyone thinks that I'm crazy for that.
    But, besides Fantastic Mr. Fox, I have never seen a movie of his that I liked...

  5. Holy crap, we agree on not just things everyone thinks but also weird things. You're my movie bro, haha.

  6. Don't have much to say.
    Full of original ideas and feelings. Was great to see Carrey in a serious movie.
    But on another note - the movie did not really catch my feeling (like opposite I have mentioned American Beauty already earlier on blog). I just couldn't connect to it that well.

    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 7+/10