ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
Review by Gordon Justesen
Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, Tom
Director: Michel Gondry
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 108 Minutes
Release Date: September 28, 2004
is it, Joel. It's going to be gone soon."
do we do?"
Films can entertain
us, but they can also ultimately challenge us as a viewer. No other recent film
can illustrate both benefits more beautifully than Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Leave it to the eccentric
brilliance of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman to whip up another fantastically
original story. Truth be told, despite his remarkable track record with Being
John Malkovich, Adaptation and Confessions
of a Dangerous Mind, I sincerely think that Eternal
Sunshine is Kaufman's most superb piece of work yet.
I've seen the film
twice now, and I've come to discover that a repeat viewing of a film like this
is vital. The first viewing works as an experience, where you find yourself
drawn into the wild and crazy ride the movie provides in the form of a frenetic
trip inside a person's mind. When I saw the movie in its theatrical run, I
remember feeling so taken by the experience that I neglected to acknowledge the
elements I found in the second viewing.
What I discovered
in the repeat viewing is that the film is a whole lot more than the outrageous
premise at its core. As it turns out, Eternal
Sunshine is remarkably written film about the power of emotions,
particularly that of love, and how memory and certain emotions make us who we
are in life, no matter how hard we try so hard to erase certain memories from
our very minds.
The hero of the
film is Joel Barrish (Jim Carrey), a lonely soul whose whole existence was
changed the day he met Clementine (Kate Winslet). She displays signs of
attraction, and before long, the two are inseparable. Things happen very
quickly, and it isn't too long before Clementine confesses that she considers
Joel to be too boring. Joel confesses back that she is simply too needy. The
next time he sees her in public, Joel is shocked to learn that she acts like
she's never seen him before.
happy is the blameless vestal's lotů"
The truth is, she
really doesn't know who he is, as Joel soon discovers that following their
breakup, she had Joel completely erased from her memory. This was done through a
breakthrough firm named Lacuna. The head of the establishment, Dr. Howard
Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson), has helped perfected a way to erase troubling
memories away from the mind.
So Joel, in an act
of revenge, decides to undergo the procedure and have every bit of Clementine
wiped away for good. From this point on we, along with Joel, experience past
events slowly being wiped from existence, right down to the very moment Joel
walks into the Lacuna offices to make an appointment.
Dr. Mierzwiak isn't
alone in conducting the memory erasing. He has a short but reliable staff of
assistants who supervise the process down to a tee. Technicians Stan (Mark
Ruffalo) and Patrick (Elijah Wood) oversee every single minute of Joel's
condition right from Stan's apartment. There's also the receptionist, Mary
(Kirsten Dunst), who's on hand for help but mostly because she's also Stan's
world forgetting, by the world forgot."
The trip inside
Joel's mind is a trip to remember indeed! Not only does the story play it self
backwards inside the character's mind, but it also reveals the details of Joel
and Clementine's time together. While being able to see his requested memories
erased right in front of him, Joel comes to realize that wiping Clementine away
from his mind may not be the very thing he wanted.
At first, it seems
like the perfect act of revenge. While witnessing the memory of their exact
moment of breakup, Joel is happy to announce to Clementine that he is having her
erased for good. Sooner down the road, Joel also discovers the beautiful moments
he shared with her. The gentle individual moments that are always worth
remembering. He has come to realize that a memory of anything resembling beauty
is not worth destroying.
Before long, Joel
attempts to prevent total eradication of Clementine by eluding the memory wipe
process. By doing this, he pulls Clementine into hidden memories, even some very
embarrassing ones, hoping to win over the erasing procedure. Joel's inner
actions manage to baffle the very technicians handling the process, who've never
seen a subject go so far off the map.
sunshine of the spotless mindů"
The film has so
many credits worth mentioning in its achieving, but first and foremost should be
the work of director Michel Gondry. This is the first film of his I've seen,
though he's made a few films prior, one of which was Human Nature, another collaboration with Charlie Kaufman. I already
find Gondry to be a masterful visionary. The unexpected places and events that
Kaufman's screenplay provides, as well as the illustration of Joel's fractured
mind, are enlivened to full realization through Gondry's vision.
For Jim Carrey, Eternal
Sunshine represents a clear illustration; he is an actor of uncompromising
range. Though I praised his serious work in The
Truman Show, Man on the Moon and The
Majestic, I don't think many critics, along with the masses, were ready to
take him seriously. With this film, I strongly feel that Carrey will finally get
the kind of acceptance he set out to get when he first stayed clear of
typecasting. The character of Joel is indeed his most complex and challenging
The rest of the
cast shines as well, most notably Kate Winslet, who in addition to being one of
the most beautiful looking women in cinema, proves that she's capable of pulling
off any type of role thrown her way. I've never seen her play such a wild and
energetic character as Clementine, but I'd be lying if I said she doesn't pull
off with flying colors. Speaking of colors, I think Ms. Winslet's beauty is
illustrated even more in the scene/memory where her hair is fully red. The
supporting work from Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, Kirsten Dunst and Tom Wilkinson
adds up to one of the best ensemble casts of the year.
pray'r accepted, and each wish resign'd."
As we get closer
and closer to the end of the year, the list of terrific films is quite bigger
than usual for me by now. One thing's for sure, Eternal
Sunshine of the Spotless Mind will indeed score a high place on my Ten Best
list for the year. The film is a mind blowing achievement of technical wizardry
and beautiful storytelling. Many Oscar nods should be considered.
handling of this incredibly visionary piece is downright flawless in every
aspect, so much to the point that you are certain to never FORGET it. The
anamorphic picture is a pure treat for the visual senses, as all of the
extraordinarily odd set pieces used in accompanying the trip inside Joel's mind
is delivered in the most superb form imaginable. Image clarity is of pure
consistence, and the many tones the film finds itself in (an equal share of
bright and very dark) illuminate the screen beautifully.
Sunshine is a film of both
quiet moments and strong technical elements, and the 5.1 mix succeeds in
defining the powers of both aspects of the form. On the one hand, a good portion
of the film is dialogue oriented, and the spoken words are delivered
terrifically clear. At the same time, Joel's troubling mind trip offers moments
that give each of the channels very good use. Music playback is also a strong
footnote in the sound performance, as demonstrated by Jon Brion's mellow score
and a crucial song by Beck.
Not a heavy load,
but a more than good enough extras list, nonetheless. Included is a commentary
track by Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman, a featurette on the making of the
film, an engaging conversation with Jim Carrey and Michel Gondry reflecting the
making-of process, several deleted scenes, a music video for the song
"Light and Day" by The Polyphonic Spree, and even an infomercial for