You never know what to expect from comedian, turned comedic actor, turned dramatic actor, Jim Carry (Peggy Sue Got Married - 1986, The Mask 1994, The Truman Show 1998, Bruce Almighty 2003), or where the very versatile and talented Kate Winslet (Sense and Sensibility 1995, Titanic 1997, Quills 2000, The Life of David Gale 2003), will turn up next. Where, why the strangely titled Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, thats where.
Written by noted screen writer Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich - 1999, Human Nature 2001, Adaptation -2002), and directed by Michel Gondry (One Day 2001, Human Nature - 2001, The Science of Sleep), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which takes its title from a quote by renowned 18th century English poet Alexander Pope is a strange, even absurd, yet ultimately appealing movie. The film which re-teams Kaufman and Gondry (Human Nature) and follows the antics of Joel Barish (Carrey), a New Yorker experiencing rough break-up, is a dark comedic/romantic romp, with some powerful, science-fiction undertones. And after some plot confusion ala Adaptation, and 21 Grams, is surprisingly enjoyable.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind opens on a chilly freezing, depressing, decidedly colorless Valentine's Day, as unassuming, innocuous, Joel and unpredictable, whimsical Clementine (Winslet) meet on a train to Montauk, NY after Joel decides, on a whim, to skip work. The twoseemingstrangers proceed to engage in a very strange conversation/ mating dance, which eventually finds them spending a rather delightful day and night together. And after this rather convulsed and awkward beginning, all appears well in their world.
But all is not as it appears, and after a while the film unwinds into a time after the acidic end of their relationship when Joel runs into passive-aggressive Clementine in a bookstore and she doesn't seem to recognize him at all; indeed she is in a dalliance with another. By chanceand to me completely unexplainablyhe discovers through friends of his, that Clementine has undergone a drastic new medical procedure whereby painful memories related to a specific subject can be completely erased from the mind, as if they never really happened.
Distressed at being removed from Clementines mind, Joel pays a visit the doctor, who performed the procedure, one Dr. Howard Merzwiak portrayed by Tom Wilkinson (The Ghost in the Darkness 1996, Shakespeare in Love 1998, The Patriot -2000, In the Bedroom 2001) of Lacuna, Inc., in a vain attempt to understand what has happened to his estranged girlfriend. However, once there, Joel rashly decides to have the procedure performed on himself as well, in order to erase his memories of failed relationship with Clementine, and the pain they have caused.
Merzwiak and his teamincluding technicians Stan portrayed with recognizable blandness by Mark Ruffalo (Safe Men -1998, XX/YY 2003, In The Cut 2003), Patrick, portrayed by a sideburn bearing Elijah Wood (Paradise 1994, Flipper -1996, Lord of the Rings Trilogy) and secretary Mary portrayed with bubbly exuberance Kirsten Dunst (The Bonfire of the Vanities 1990, Interview with the Vampire 1994, Bring it On -2000, Spiderman -2002)prep Joel in the office by taking him through him most recent memories and then hashes through the hideous breakup in graphic detail. The procedure continues in Joels apartment that night with just Stan and Patrick, but Mary who is dating Stan later shows up, and Patrick leaves to attend to Clementine, who he is no secretly seeing having rifled through her life with Joel.
Problems arise when the procedure start replaying memories that make Joels un-conscience mind remember why he feel in love with Clementine in the first place, and his mind rebels. His mind strays off the path, and he tries to hide memories of Clementine from the procedure, in different parts of his memory, disappearing off the grid, in an effort to halt a process that now cannot be stopped. He inserts Clementine into old thoughts in which she appears as his mothers and then bears witness to any number of long-repressed childhood traumas. Unable to completely handle the anomaly, Stan calls in Merzwiak who begins to track Joel and Clementine through the increasingly collapsing recesses of his mind. And in the process we learn that Mary has gone through the procedure as well
Although director Michel Gondry comes from to us from the spastic, over energized world of music videos (directing videos Bjork and White Stripes), he doesn't let play on the visual aspects of the story, instead concentrating on the human interaction. In the hands, and mind, of a less-confident filmmaker, the surreal aspects of the story (mind control and erasure) might have overwhelmed the more realistic ideas; human frailty and the oft complicated rollercoaster of human relationships. For example, at first there is no observable demarcation between the real world of Joel and Clementine and the world of their memories. But then visual clues are interlaced throughout the film in order to clue us in that this is not normal, not exactly of this plain; e.g. the scene of Joels quietly disintegrating memory of a bookstore meeting with Clementine in which the title gradually disappears from book covers is absolutely evocative.
Both Carry and Winsletwho is one my favorite actresseswere riveting. Carry once again proves that his versatility as an actor should never be underestimated. And Winslet goes out on a creative limb reinventing herself once again the inhabit the role of loopy, eccentric Clementine without a hint of British in her speech, peppered as it is with enough profanity to make a sailor blush. Is it me or is Kirsten Dunst wasting away, physically? Earth to Kirsten: eat something!
In the finally analysis the title, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, start to gel and make sense. For those us who have lived, and loved, and learned, our minds are forever clouded with the disarray of life. And, in order to be fulfilled, to matter, to feel, the spotless mind is one better left to heaven.
Rated R (violence, profanity, vulgarity, brief sex, drug use)
Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age
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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a 2004 American psychological-drama film by director Michel Gondry. The film uses elements of science fiction, nonlinear narration and neosurrealism to explore the nature of memory and romantic love. It opened in North America on March 19, 2004 and grossed over US$70 million worldwide.
Gondry worked on the story with writer/director Charlie Kaufman and Pierre Bismuth, a French performance artist. Together, they won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 2005, alongside a nomination for Kate Winslet for Best Actress that year. The film stars Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet and features Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Wilkinson, Elijah Wood, Jane Adams, and David Cross.