Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 3/31/04 w/ Additional Edits & Extensive Revisions.
Did you just get off a nasty breakup? Did the bad memories of the person you loved getting to you? Well, here in Lacuna, Inc., we decide to help remove those awful memories so you can get a chance to live a happier life without pain and heartbreak. There’s only one problem; Lacuna, Inc. doesn’t exist because it’s from the crazed imagination of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and director Michel Gondry in their 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet about a couple who both just gone to a nasty breakup and decided to remove their memories of each other when one of them all of a sudden doesn’t want to anymore. With a fine supporting cast that includes Tom Wilkinson, Kirsten Dunst, Elijah Wood, and Mark Ruffalo, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a surreal, wondrous romantic-comedy that bends the idea of love.
After an awful break-up, Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) tries to deal with his heartbreak as he learns that his longtime girlfriend Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet) has left him for another guy. When he tries to talk to her, she claims to have no recollections of who he is. Turning to his friends Rob (David Cross) and Carrie (Jane Adams), Rob gives Joel a card which revealed that Clementine has erased all of her memories of him. Joel decides to do the same as he meets Lacuna, Inc. chief Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson) for the procedure as he ultimately decides to get rid of Clementine from his memories. With help from Howard's secretary Mary (Kirsten Dunst) and his two geeky technicians in Stan (Mark Ruffalo) and Patrick (Elijah Wood), things start to become surreal as Joel starts to look into his memories.
In his subconscious, Joel starts to see all of memories of Clementine starts to disappear as he immediately starts to regret what he's doing. Meanwhile in the real world, Joel is asleep as Stan and Patrick are removing his memories at Joel's apartment. Mary later shows up to help as Patrick leaves to go on a date with his new girlfriend that he calls Tangerine. Joel meanwhile, begins to examine the moments when he and Clementine weren't getting along as he then reflects on the good times as he talks with her in his memory as she learns what is going on. With Patrick out with his new girlfriend, Mary parties with Stan as things get weirder when the two learn that Joel is doing things inside his subconscious as they call Howard for help.
Howard finally arrives to help out as he sees what is going on as things become complicated over his feelings towards Mary. Back in Joel's subconscious, Clementine helps Joel to try and salvage all of the remaining memories left as Joel begins to regret what he's done. Meanwhile, Mary learns something about her own past in relation to Howard as his wife Hollis (Deirdre O'Connell) makes an appearance leaving everyone to question what they're doing.
Directed by Michel Gondry based on a story that he, Charlie Kaufman, and Pierre Bismuth came up with Kaufman writing the screenplay, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind isn’t just a vast improvement over their first collaboration together for the uneven but funny 2001 film Human Nature. It’s also Kaufman’s best work since 1999’s Being John Malkovich that was directed by Spike Jonze who also did 2002’s Adaptation with Kaufman. In the illustrious words of film critic Roger Ebert, Charlie Kaufman is one weird dude. There’s probably no screenwriter as famous as Charlie Kaufman since he comes up with stories of surrealism that are fascinating yet human. His screenplay for this film is filled with ambiguities and unpredictable moments where it’s like when did this happen or why is this character here? At first, it might seem inconsistent but Kaufman makes sure things don’t move to fast so the audience can get a chance to know what’s going on.
Michel Gondry definitely brings his training from his days as a music video director up to par for film. Where he had some fine moments in Human Nature, he finally gets his chance by manipulating visual techniques and bring this element of suspense as if you’re wondering what’s going to happen next or what’s going to drop. With the dizzying yet colorful cinematography of Ellen Kuras, Gondry brings up all of these elements of weird symbolism to heighten the suspense of a romantic comedy while belting out some strong dramatic moments from the actors. For Gondry, this is clearly not just his breakthrough film but he will indeed become a director to watch for. If Kuras’ blurry, colorful cinematography gives the film a lush look, the film score by Jon Brion of atmospheric, melancholic textures plays up to the film’s quirkiness and drama as well as songs from Beck, Electric Light Orchestra, and the Polyphonic Spree. Already, this is the first candidate for the best film soundtrack of 2004, so far.
If the screenplays of Kaufman always had a stellar cast, this one shines in its performances. While the smaller roles of David Cross, Jane Adams, and Deirdre O’Connell are fun to watch and do serve well, the film really pays more attention to principle cast of six actors. Though Elijah Wood wasn’t shown a lot in the film, he is excellent as the manipulative Patrick who tries to worm his way into Joel’s mind by scoring in order to score with women. After the success of his role as Frodo in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Wood scores with this performance by playing the role sensitively despite his intentions. Mark Ruffalo is funny as the geeky Stan with his brainiac mind and sensitivity as he plays around in his underwear with Kirsten Dunst while showing some sympathy later on in the film’s final act relating to Dunst’s character.
Kirsten gives a radiant yet exciting performance in the role of Mary. While Dunst is a master in comedy in her scenes when she’s stoned and dancing around in her underwear, Dunst displays some restrained dramatic performances in her scenes with Tom Wilkinson as she learns a secret about her while trying to prove to everyone she isn’t this dumb secretary. Dunst really shines in this film as she balances comedic theatrics and restraint drama. Tom Wilkinson brings in a masterful, charming performance as Dr. Howard Mierzwiak by playing the role in an American accent with a sense of humor and drama that shows Wilkinson’s range. There is probably no one better to play Mierzwiak better than Wilkinson since he is definitely someone that can do both comedy and drama.
The film’s two best performances easily go to Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet. Whereas Carrey has been known for playing crazy roles and Winslet in more restrictive, dramatic roles, the two definitely do the opposite in their performances. The chemistry with Carrey and Winslet are moving and fun as both play off their performance with spontaneity and romanticism. Kate Winslet delivers probably her best performance to date, as she feels relaxed and free with the punk-hair color changes and exuberance as she brings a wild personality to her performance. Winslet proves that she could be funny while displaying a touching moment in the film’s final act. Jim Carrey delivers his best performance overall even though he’s done drama before in Peter Weir’s The Truman Show. Carrey’s performance is extremely moving with his bowled, messy haircut, and puppy-dog sadness as he uses his comedic talents in a few scenes that are funny, especially when he acts like a child. In the dramatic moments, he definitely moves you with his mood as he brings in a performance that outshines all. Both Carrey and Winslet right now deliver the best performances of the year and hopefully, don’t get overlooked at the Oscars.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of the year’s brightest and most original romantic comedies in the past five years. With its colorful cinematography, an offbeat screenplay, Michel Gondry’s surreal direction, and a great ensemble cast led by the romantic performances of Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind clearly stands as one of the best films of 2004. For Charlie Kaufman, it’s right now his best screenplay while Michel Gondry proves himself as a director who knows how to manipulate images and minds with its quirky screenplay that surprises you right to the end. For a romantic film that is funny and moving, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is the film to see.
Michel Gondry Films: Human Nature - Dave Chappelle's Block Party - The Science of Sleep - Be Kind Rewind - Tokyo!-Interior Design - (The Thorn in the Heart) - The Green Hornet - The We & the I - (Mood Indigo) - (Is the Man Who is Tall Happy?)
© thevoid99 2011