Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind takes a radical approach to mending a broken heart: essentially brain damage.
The film is not novel or clichÃ©d as it takes a very brutal and direct look on the effect love has on hermit Joel Barish. And how maybe the anguish and heartache of his break-up are just half of a perfect circle.
Eternal Sunshine centers around the saying “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” The film is triumphant over the hordes of “been there, done that” romances, because it answers one of life’s most important questions: how do we find love and hold on to it?
Charlie Kaufman’s screenplay is flawless. One minute he chimes in with his known blend of quirky, dark humor and then next focuses on the beauty within society’s imperfections.
Kaufman has shifted focus from creating a portal into a movie star’s mind (Being John Malkovich) to twin brothers who live life differently (Adaptation) to making a romance that has depth and is a total original. But the films have one common thread — imaginative dialogue and visuals. Ideas and shots that would normally seem unrealistic or out of place come together to create a strong movie that explores more than the average flick could ever do.
Jim Carrey ditches physical comedy, and his uncanny ability to overact every scene, only to embrace a role that is intriguing due to an awkwardly attractive charisma he gives to his character, Joel. Thanks to Kaufman, Carrey gives a dazzling performance that very few actors could nail.
Kate Winslet is vibrant as Clementine, a rebellious bookstore employee whose mood changes as frequently as her hair color. She and Carrey have an undeniable chemistry that makes Kaufman’s somewhat ridiculous premise of memory-erasing work.
Joel is a guy who doesn’t take risks: from his dull lifestyles to the women he chooses to fall in love with, he plays everything straight. Joel is disaffected, lonely and perfectly content with his life until he meets Clementine, a beauty that completely alters his perspective on life. She forces Joel to take a stroll down the wild side pushing him into strange situations as he begins to fall in love with her.
Joel’s conservative nature and Clementine’s liberal personality clash often throughout the film. A heated argument later, Clementine opts for Lacuna’s radical new memory erase procedure. Joel soon learns of her decision and seeks the same.
The most visually satisfying moments come as Joel refuses to let the memory of Clementine go and technicians struggle to permanently seal them.
Director Michel Gondry, has worked alongside Kaufman before (2001’s Human Nature), who is still largely known as a groundbreaking music video director.
His direction compliments the Kaufman-esque world with bedrooms in the middle of a sandy beach and houses bursting with water. Gondry never distracts from the main purpose of supporting the script and the talented actors.
Despite limited screen time, Kirsten Dunst is fantastic as a receptionist at Lacuna. She uncovers a disturbing secret that eventually affects all characters in the film. Dunst delivers her most honest performance since Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, nearly a decade ago.
Elijah Wood and Mark Ruffalo are a pair of blundering technicians at Lacuna who work well off each other. By prentending to be Joel, Wood becomes Clementine’s rebound after she’d removed Joel from her memories.
Eternal Sunshine is nothing short of brilliant film, packed with stunning visuals. It’s smart, has a meaningful script and a cast of Hollywood’s elite with career best performances only add to it.
Eternal Sunshine is a film that stays with you weeks after seeing it and that provokes you to look past the surface.
An early milestone in a year crammed with the sight of urban dance (You Got Served) and entrapped in religious controversy (The Passion of the Christ), Eternal Sunshine is 2004’s first great film.