Film: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

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Film:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Director: Michel Gondry
Honors:
Genres:
Distributor: Universal Studios

Screenwriters rarely develop a distinctive voice that can be recognized from movie to movie, but the ornate imagination of Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) has made him a unique and much-needed cinematic presence. In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a guy decides to have the memories of his ex-girlfriend erased after she’s had him erased from her own memory—but midway through the procedure, he changes his mind and struggles to hang on to their experiences together. In other hands, the premise of memory-erasing would…

Reviews

Amazon.com

Screenwriters rarely develop a distinctive voice that can be recognized from movie to movie, but the ornate imagination of Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) has made him a unique and much-needed cinematic presence. In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a guy decides to have the memories of his ex-girlfriend erased after she’s had him erased from her own memory—but midway through the procedure, he changes his mind and struggles to hang on to their experiences together. In other hands, the premise of memory-erasing would become a trashy science-fiction thriller; Kaufman, along with director Michel Gondry, spins this idea into a funny, sad, structurally complex, and simply enthralling love story that juggles morality, identity, and heartbreak with confident skill. The entire cast—Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Wilkinson, and more—give superb performances, carefully pitched so that cleverness never trumps feeling. A great movie. —Bret Fetzer

Barnes and Noble

It’s not surprising that one of 2004’s best films fell through the cracks on its theatrical release. It is a tough sell: too oblique and serious for the Jim Carrey fans who propelled Bruce Almighty to blockbuster success, too freighted with Carrey’s goofball butt-talking baggage to lure in art house denizens. Yet, if they give it a chance, it’s hard to imagine anyone in either camp failing to enjoy this funny, thoughtful meditation on true love, obsession, and destiny from the combined genius of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich) and music-video auteur Michel Gondry. Carrey plays Joel Barish, a quiet, sensitive guy who finds out his emotional, free-spirited girlfriend, Clementine (Kate Winslet), has undergone a procedure to entirely erase him from her memory. Heartbroken and spiteful, Joel visits Dr. Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson) and demands to have the same procedure done to him. With Joel sedated and hooked up to a computer, Mierzwiak’s assistants (Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, and Kirsten Dunst) begin zapping away the memories of Joel and Clementine’s relationship, one by one. Aware of the procedure while it’s happening, Joel relives his relationship with Clementine and realizes he doesn’t want to forget. His attempts to hide Clementine in the deeper recesses of his psyche provide endless opportunities for Gondry to show off his astounding visual flair. Eschewing computer-generated gimmickry, Gondy uses old-fashioned camera tricks—forced perspective, rear projection, miniatures—to depict Joel’s memories as they decay around him. It may take a second viewing to really appreciate all that’s going on. But all this eye candy would be nothing without the brilliant script from Kaufman that adds genuine heart to his already established meta-humor abilities. Winslet is as good as we’ve come to expect, but Carrey’s nuanced, subdued performance will be a surprise to almost everyone. He’s got a future in drama—if his fans will stand for it. This is not a perfect film. It’s at times too arty for its own good, and a crucial subplot involving Dr. Mierzwiak and his crew should have been given more attention. These are minor quibbles, though. Flaws and all, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is an unforgettable cinematic experience. Bill Pearis

Related Works

Album:Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Original Soundtrack

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Original Soundtrack

Various Artists

With his soundtrack for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Jon Brion has carefully crafted music every bit as quirky (and fascinating) as the movie itself. As he did with Magnolia and Punch Drunk Love, Brion has made a varied score filled with odd instrumentation, infectious melodies, and at least one or two near-perfect pop songs. Best of all, these offbeat tracks compliment the movie incredibly well, and stand on their own as great listening. Mood-wise, this soundtrack is all over the map: "Row" is a simple, haunting piano solo; the…

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