Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Movie Review
A Hollywood star, an offbeat screenwriter and a little-known director combine forces to give us a taste of what romantic comedies can be - something clever. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind avoids the typical cliché of romantic comedies and delivers something much deeper and much more realistic, but what else can you expect from Charlie Kaufman?
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind takes a look at the life of Joel Barish (Jim Carrey), a man who is trying to get over a devastating breakup with his girlfriend, Clementine (Kate Winslett). After realizing that she has had an operation that has removed him from her memory completely, he decides to do the same, enlisting the help of a special doctor (Tom Wilkinson). However, as the procedure begins to work his magic, he begins to realize just how much he loved her and wants to hold onto her in his mind. Still, it is a race against time as she begins to get sucked from his brain forever. Can love overcome?
Jim Carrey is excellent in the lead. Amazingly, this film allows him to play his most out-of-character character to date, tossing aside much of his elastic face and over-the-top dramatics that have become the trademarks of his performances. Fans of Carrey should not expect his usual shtick, and those who are not fans of Carrey should not be so quick to judge. He is believable, likable, and just plain good. Thankfully, he is also supported by a top-notch supporting cast. Winslett, as the love interest, is entertaining to say the least. She comes off as a bit of a psychopath, but plays one oh so very well. Wilkinson, with a lesser role, is good, and Kirsten Dunst simmers on screen. Elijah Wood and Mark Ruffalo play well off of one another.
Of course, the real benefactor of the film comes from the technical side. Charlie Kaufman, who is one of the few screenwriters to be more prominently advertised than his movies' actors or directors, has shelled out another great piece of work. Known for his edgy, original and strange screenplays that include such things as Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, "normal" should not be expected in any part of his work. Surprisingly, Spotless Mind is his most normal movie to date. That's not to say that this movie is not without its quirkiness - after all, much of the story takes place inside of Carrey's head - but everything seems a bit more levelheaded. Still, though a bit more basic in some ways, Kaufman captures the essence of his characters, and humans in general, so easily.
Overshadowing Kaufman, however, is director Michel Gondry. Kaufman's screenplay is very calculated, and it takes a certain kind of director to express what he is trying to say on screen. Gondry does it with ease. As the movie meanders through Carrey's mind, everything flows so well both visually and otherwise. The combination of Kaufman's wizardry and Gondry's control behind the camera makes it seem as though we really are inside someone's head, wandering through a story that seems to rewrite itself every few seconds.
Spotless Mind does seem a bit long in a few places, as some of the scenes inside of Carrey's head are a bit repetitive. Since we essentially know how things are going to end, it is hard to become too engaged at times with his fight to save his ex-girlfriend in memory.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is the best movie of the year to date, clever in so many ways. The combination of fabulous writing, great acting and a visually aggressive director makes this film one of the highlights of 2004.
The DVD is highlighted with a few deleted scenes that give a little more depth to a few sequences, though, considering the material, are not especially entertaining to watch on their own. More interesting is "A Conversation with Jim Carrey and Director Michel Gondry as they discuss some of the scenes in the movie. The funniest moment of this featurette is footage of Jim Carrey driving a bed into a gas station, but those who love to get a look at how actors "shrink" in movies will also like to see the set design of the kitchen scene where Jim Carrey is playing a toddler. In addition to this "authentic" behind-the-scenes look, there is also a more promotional featurette that has the actors talking about how much they feel for their characters (that usual sappy stuff) intermixed with scenes from the movie. The F-word is even bleeped out for television. Other features include a music video, a director/writer commentary and the Lacuna Infomercial.
Overall, the DVD has some good features, though only fans who already want the movie should really go out of their way to purchase it. The special features aren't so extraordinary that they make the DVD a must-have.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.