Friday, July 30, 2010

Review: "Eternal Sunshine" is a Spotless Delight

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 196 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Running time: 108 minutes (1 hour, 48 minutes)
MPAA – R for language, some drug and sexual content
DIRECTOR: Michael Gondry
WRITERS: Charlie Kaufman; based upon a story by Charlie Kaufman, Michael Gondry, and Pierre Bismuth
PRODUCERS: Anthony Bregman and Steve Golin
EDITOR: Valdìs Óskarsdóttir
Academy Award winner

DRAMA/ROMANCE/SCI-FI with elements of comedy

Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo, and Tom Wilkinson

Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) has just had a really bad break up with his girlfriend, Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet), but there is still more bad news. Clementine has undergone a psychiatrist’s (Tom Wilkinson) experimental procedure in which all her memories of Joel were removed. Joel is frustrated by the fact that he still loves Clementine deeply, although she often irritates him greatly, so he undergoes the same procedure to erase his memories of her. The film then moves into Joel’s mind as the setting, and the procedure works backwards in time, removing the most recent memories first. So we see a memory, watch as it fades or is destroyed, and Joel’s mind moves backwards to the next oldest memory before that one is likewise scragged. Midway through the process, Joel decides realizes how much he still loves Clementine and doesn’t want to lose his memories of her. He begins to move parts of his time with her into places of his memory where she doesn’t belong, like his childhood. That only alters his other memories, and as his mind travels farther back in time, he wonders if he’ll retain any memories of Clementine when he awakens in the morning and the procedure has finished.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is another brilliant screenplay from the mind of Charlie Kaufman, author of Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. As usual, his scripts are directed by excellent filmmakers; in this instance, the director is Michael Gondry, known for his work directing music videos for Björk and The Chemical Brothers. Gondry expertly directs the inspired madness of Kaufman’s script. The film, for all its surreal moments and shifts both in “real time” and dream time,” makes sense. Gondry also weaves out of this a poignant and genuinely heartfelt romantic drama.

The performances in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind range from great to pretty good. This is Jim Carrey’s best work and one of the few times he completely looses the clown and turns his creative energy and his longing for acceptance into a fierce, dramatic performance worthy of standing with the best “serious” actors. Kate Winslet is good…of course, and she does a better working class or ordinary American woman than most American actresses her age. The supporting roles are great with Kirsten Dunst making the most of a small part, but Tom Wilkinson is either a bit too aloof or too distant, or maybe the script didn’t give him enough.

At times, the film seems like a nightmare from the mind of the late, great sci-fi author and writer of speculative and mind-bending fiction, Philip K. Dick. In fact, Eternal Sunshine has a better PKD flavor than the films allegedly adapted from Dick’s books and short fiction. All things aside, this is excellent cinema. The time shifts and surrealism in Charlie Kaufman’s screenplays are practical and move the narrative similar to the way Quentin Tarantino does with his films. As of the closing days of September 2004, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is the best film of the year.

10 of 10

2005 Academy Awards: 1 win “Best Writing, Original Screenplay” (Charlie Kaufman-screenplay/story, Michel Gondry-story, and Pierre Bismuth-story); 1 nominations: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” (Kate Winslet)

2005 BAFTA Awards: 2 wins: “Best Editing” (Valdís Óskarsdóttir) and “Best Screenplay – Original” (Charlie Kaufman); 4 nominations: “Best Film” (Steve Golin and Anthony Bregman), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Jim Carrey), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” (Kate Winslet), and “David Lean Award for Direction” (Michel Gondry)

2005 Golden Globes: 4 nominations: “Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy,” “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Jim Carrey), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Kate Winslet), “Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (Charlie Kaufman)


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