ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
The somewhat withdrawn Joel (Jim Carrey) one day meets a girl who seems to take a liking to him, and they begin a patchy relationship. But Joel is hurt and surprised when he learns that his impulsive girlfriend, Clementine (Kate Winslet), has had a procedure to erase him from her memories. In an effort to deal with the pain of rejection, he goes to Dr Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson) to have the same thing done to his memories of Clementine. But even as Dr Mierzwiak's not so professional team (Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood) go deep into his memories, Joel begins to fight the procedure, realising he really does love the feisty Clementine. They meet up in his memory and try various tricks to evade the process.
Review by Andrew L. Urban
Writer Charlie Kaufman has taken us inside minds before, notably with Being John Malkovich and Adaptation; this time it's a specific memory erasure process that gives the screenplay its dramatic tool. Talk about dreaming! Imagine if you could go to your local memory specialist for a session to forget your ex. Or your mother in law. Charlie avoids these tantalising prospects (but maybe he could work on a follow up script) and concentrates on romantic love.
Jim Carrey's Joel is as dishevelled and unshaven as Kaufman's own persona via Nicolas Cage in Adaptation, and he also shares the retiring elements of that character. Kate Winslet is not so constrained, given a colourful personality to match the various hair colourings she likes to apply with haphazard abandon.
The film is a great deal of fun as these two central characters play out a romance that goes to ruin, then a rescue of that romance inside Joel's memory, and finally - though we're not quite sure how this comes about - a resolution that satisfies without going syrupy.
Thrown into the mix is a small side-bar with Elijah Wood as a creepy lover and Tom Wilkinson as the unfaithful husband caught re-bonding with the ex mistress. Now there's another use for this memory stripper....
The film entertains for the most part and gives us a set of marvellous performances from this outstanding cast, even if it doesn't quite reach the near-genius of Kaufman's other writings. Michel Gondry, one of Kaufman's accomplices, directs with confidence and manages the demanding slip-slop from fantasy to reality with well-oiled panache.
But the film's flighty appearance disguises its heartfelt intentions as it explores the very stuff that gives us a grip on each other in a relationship: our memories of each other, both as individuals and as a unit. And as the wackiness clears, the film's message urges us to see each other for what we are, without the baggage of what might be ideal or preferable.
Review by Louise Keller:
I love Charlie Kaufman's logic. Let's face it, a Kaufman script is a guarantee for a hyperactive brain workout. The film takes its title from a quotation from Alexander Pope: 'How happy is the blameless vestal's lot! The world forgetting, by the world forgot. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! Each pray'r accepted, and each wish resign'd.' There's another rather good quotation that begins 'Blessed are the forgetful....' These quotes linger....after all, this is a film that deals with memory and relationships, and how one affects the other.
Kaufman and director Michel Gondry, who collaborated successfully with the memorably wacky Human Nature, break bread together again - and to great effect. The result is a witty, intelligent and stimulating film that pushes the boundaries of logic and reason.
Eternal Sunshine is a love story. But this is no ordinary love story. It's the story of Joel and Clementine, who meet, fall in love, and then go through a relationship breakdown. When Joel finds out Clementine has had him erased from her memory, and is about to go through the same process to eradicate the pain of remembering, he timidly asks Tom Wilkinson's Dr Mierzwiak if there is danger of brain damage. 'The procedure technically IS brain damage,' the not-so-honourable doctor replies. And we quickly get the picture, as Joel lies motionless, while Mark Ruffalo's wonderfully eccentric brain-erasing technician (his ruffled hair looks as though he has plugged himself into an electric socket) gets to work, identifying and deleting the 'spots' that are Clementine-related memories.
Time and place become jumbled, as the sequence of events is reversed and confused. It's bizarre, rather than funny, although the imaginative scenes in which Joel reverts to his four-year old miniature state, wearing pyjamas and hiding under the kitchen table, and bathing in the kitchen sink are hilarious.
He impressed us greatly in his non-comedic roles in Man on the Moon and The Truman Show, and Jim Carrey simply oozes pathos as Joel. Carrey doesn't make a false move - he is the ultimate tragic character. We are so used to his outgoing nature as a goofy extrovert, whereas here, vulnerability is painted on his face like a mask. Kate Winslet is an apt contrast as the enthusiastic, passionate Clementine ('Don't make comments about my name') and whose outlandish hair colours are statement enough. Together they are yin and yang, and through the maze of agitated memories, our curiosity is ignited.
The casting is as unusual as the script, and Kirsten Dunst injects her own stamp on Lacuna receptionist Mary ('I'm just a f**cked-up girl, looking for my own peace of mind'), while Elijah Wood is an interesting choice as Patrick, the memory-erasing assistant who steals patients' memories to further his own conquests.
If you enjoyed the trip through John Malkovich's brain, or Kaufman's writer's block in Adaptation, the exploration of society in Human Nature and the obsessive dual life of Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, you will certainly enjoy tripping in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Because that's what it is, a trip that ultimately clarifies the importance of memory. After all, that is what a relationship uses as fuel.
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JIM CARREY INTERVIEW
CHARLIE KAUFMAN FEATURE
ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (M)
CAST: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, Tom Wilkinson
PRODUCER: Steve Golin and Anthony Berman
DIRECTOR: Michel Gondry
SCRIPT: Charlie Kaufman (story by Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry, Pierre Bismuth)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ellen Kuras ASC
EDITOR: Valdis Oskarsdottir
MUSIC: John Brion
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dan Leigh
RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 15, 2004