A movie not to be forgotten
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a film about love ? not just falling in love, but falling out of it, too. Of course, with a screenplay written by veteran whackjob Charlie Kaufman, it cannot possibly be that simple.
Jim Carrey, out of the dramatic spotlight since The Truman Show, stars as a surprisingly weak character. The movie begins with his character, Joel Barish, looking out a train window, sadly intoning through the magic of voiceover the beginnings of his story of woe. He is the quintessential meek defeatist, afraid to even make eye contact with a woman. He views his life with detached boredom. He finds himself boarding a train to Montauk instead of going to work one day, and his only explanation is, ?I guess I was in a funk.
Joel?s luck changes when he meets Clementine Kruczynski, played by Kate Winslet ? a bubbly, cynical whirlwind of emotions and desires who will not let Joel be afraid to talk to her. He drives her home from the train station and they stay up for half the night drinking, until Clem gets a little too friendly and Joel leaves in discomfort. However, on the drive home he realizes he really likes this girl and calls her the moment he gets home.
They are happy together, but soon we see that something goes wrong. The film alludes to a conflict, and when Joel goes to apologize to Clem at work, she treats him like a stranger; worse yet, she seems to be with some other guy. Soon it is revealed that Clementine has had her memories of Joel erased because they caused her too much pain.
Infuriated, Joel is determined to undergo the same procedure. He storms into the offices of Lacuna, Inc. (a witty play on words by Kaufman, here ? lacuna is defined as ?a small blank space; a gap or vacancy?) and finds out that the head of the company, Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson), has invented a process for selectively destroying memories.
The movie really hits its stride when Hank and Patrick (Mark Ruffalo and Elijah Wood), two of Mierzwiak?s assistants, enter Joel?s home one night to perform the procedure. As Joel sleeps peacefully, his memories of Clementine begin to well up. We see their relationship crumble in reverse chronological order as, one by one, the Lacuna technicians erase Clementine from his mind.
It does not take Joel long to realize he does not want this and begin to fight the process. He enters a state of lucid dreaming, where he is free to roam between his memories, sometimes even as they are being erased, which leads to some interesting special effects. He and Clem hide in memories where she isn?t supposed to be ? memories that Lacuna doesn?t know to erase.
At least half this movie takes place inside Joel?s mind; sometimes it is hard to keep track of what actually happened and what memories he is modifying. As with most movies penned by Kaufman (Being John Malkovich and Adaptation), Eternal Sunshine requires quite a lot of attention in order to follow it. There are really two plotlines ? the main plot of Joel and Clementine, and also a plot following the surprisingly deep employees of Lacuna. Both stories are rife with quirks and unexpected twists.
Director Michael Grondy originally created music videos before he graduated to feature-length films. Thankfully, this influence is not detrimental. Eternal Sunshine is skillfully crafted, and deals with ideas that might be daunting to some filmmakers . The notion of losing memories is very tangible in this movie; the way Grondy visualizes the process going on inside Joel?s mind is simple and intuitive.
Kaufman?s script is, as always, dry and clever with a huge helping of cynicism. Eternal Sunshine is ostensibly a romantic comedy, but there is a lot more to it if you look at it. Not only are some of the comedic elements outshined by Carrey?s forlorn and at times quite desperate performance, but there is a deeper meaning you can come away with if you so choose. This movie says a lot about the nature of love and what it does to people. Watching Joel?s memories backwards offers a unique look at how his relationship with Clementine thrived and died; many people will very likely see things that remind them of their own past relationships. In addition to all these questions to ponder, the Lacuna subplot begins to raise questions about just how erasable people really are.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which takes its title from a line of an Alexander Pope poem which is mentioned in the film, is a great movie that forces the viewer to think after they leave the theater. This kind of movie is not for everyone, though most college students would probably be able to appreciate its combination of cynicism and romanticism. Anyone who has ever fallen in love will be drawn in by its take on the dangerous emotion, and it should be a must-see for those people who would do anything to get back ?the one that slipped away.?