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Tuesday, December 6, 2011



"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."
-- Mary

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a 2004 Academy Award-winning dramatic film directed by Michael Gondry and written by Charlie Kaufman. After the end of a two-year relationship with a woman named Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet), Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) learns that she has used a revolutionary new technique to erase any trace of him from her memory. Distraught and deeply depressed, Joel decides to have the same intercession in order to erase Clementine from his own memory. He meets with Dr. Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson) to discuss the procedure and has everyone planned for an immediate operation, which is to be performed at his home while he sleeps that very night. While technicians Stan (Mark Ruffalo) and Patrick (Elijah Wood) supervise the process, Joel's subconscious starts to rebel against the memory-forgetting agent as he desperately tries to cling to any little piece of Clementine that he can find.

Although I've seen this movie before, I honestly didn't have any real recollection of it. I first saw it on a red-eye plane flight sometime soon after its release, but I can't quite remember whether I stayed awake for the film's entirety. That being said, I always wanted to give it another chance considering the fantastic it reviews it received upon its initial release in 2004 and considering the very favorable word of mouth publicity the film has received since. Add the fact that you've got Carrey and Winslet co-starring in a Kaufman-written film, and there's quite a bit of reason for me to give it a gander.

Since we're already mentioned Kaufman, let's start with the screenplay. At first glance, it might not seem all that splendidly fantastic. Sure, it's a little bit out there, but based off what we've seen him create in the past (here's looking at you, Being John Malkovich), anyone looking for a little bit of normalcy should probably look a little bit further from this one. Still, the basic storyline is one of love, and it's ultimately not all that complicated. The plot, however, moves so quickly and so carefully that it almost seems as though there's more to think about than there should be. Any time a films dares to go into a character's subconscious, there's always going to be a little bit of trickery when it comes to conveying it to the audience. Dealing with memories is never the easiest thing to show, but it's well-conceived here, especially considering we're watching the deterioration and forgetting of memories right before our eyes. At the same time, however, we're seeing how each and every character is intertwined with the person next to them, and the final ten minutes of the film help to serve as a perfect "tying-the-bow-on-top" effect. In a sense, everything comes full circle, and those of you who have been reading me for a while know how much of a sucker I am for full-circle screenplays. So while on the surface the screenplay seems a bit rote and predictable, the underlying plot devices and character development make this one a brilliant story that's going to pull at your heartstrings. There's a reason it managed to nab the Oscar statuette for Best Original Screenplay.

We're also getting a stellar set of performances from an all-star cast that's sure to hold a few surprises here and there. We all know just how good Oscar-winner Winslet can be, but there's something about her performance here that's very different from anything else she had done to date. Until this film, she had mostly been seen in intensely dramatic roles that usually came in period films. Here, she gets to burst out of that shell and play a trendy young woman who's trying to make the most of her life. Perfectly balanced with her is Carrey's sullen and seemingly "boring" Joel, and together, the two make for a pair that complements one another perfectly. It should be noted that Wilkinson and Ruffalo also play decent roles, and even Elijah Wood gives a few good scenes here and there. The real surprise, however, comes with the very strong performance from Kirsten Dunst, who at that time was most famous for her leading role in 2002's Spider-man. While I'm not a huge fan of Dunst's overall level of acting, I do have to say that I was impressed with her supporting role here, so I shall give credit where credit is due. Also be on the lookout for bit performances from David Cross and Jane Adams, who play their parts well.

Overall, I'm surprised with just how good Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind turned out to be, and as a result, I'm a little annoyed with myself for having waited this long to give it another view. It's definitely one of the defining cinematic romances of the twenty-first century, and with a powerful screenplay backing the superb performances, there's quite a bit to love about this particular film. If you have yet to give it a chance, I strongly suggest you add it to your "To Watch" list. Don't wait as long as I did to finally take it in.

Movie Review Summary
Grade: A
2 Thumbs Up

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