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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Movie Review (9.5/10)

Posted on March 28th, 2004 filed in Movie Reviews    |   

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Summary:

When Joel (Jim Carrey) discovers that his girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) has had him erased from her brain, he decides on reciprocating. He contacts Lacuna, the company that specializes in this procedure, to have her wiped out from his memory. Halfway through the process however, and as he relives the sweet and warm moments of him and Clementine, he realizes that he actually cherishes these memories and thus wants to keep them. But how will he be able to communicate his change of heart to the Lacuna techs before it is too late?

Background:

1) Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich) landed on the “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” title from an Alexander Pope’s poem, about an ill fated romance between monk Abelard and nun Heloise. That same poem was earlier used in Kaufman’s ‘Being John malkovich’ when John Cusack has a puppet show with Abelard and Heloise as the leads.

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;

2) As part of the movie marketing, lacunainc.com was setup and greets you as follows:

“Why remember a destructive love affair? Here at Lacuna we have perfected a safe and effective technique for focused erasure of troubling memories.”

The website invites visitors to check out its online interactive experience which then leads to the movie trailer

3) Lacuna itself means ‘hole’ and a lacunar infarct is a common medical entity that results from the occlusion of a tiny blood vessel in the brain culminating in the destruction of corresponding brain tissue and the creation of tiny holes there.

4) The idea was reportedly brought to Michel Gondry by his friend the artist Pierre Bismuth who suggested, “You get a card in the mail that says: someone you know has just erased you from their memory…”

Review:

Rarely does a movie come along that leaves me with nothing to say but wow. I am actually inclined to staple together a number of praise sentences and decide that this is my review.

Undoubtedly one of the most wonderful movies of all time, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind astounds in its originality, script near perfection, flawless direction, and fascinating performances.

The idea is intriguing. We’ve all been there as a matter of fact. Painful memories that we just wish we never had or at least never remember. What if there is actually a way that allows the selective erasing of whatever memories one chooses?

I’ve been a big fan of Charlie Kaufman ever since I saw ‘Being John Malkovich’ and later on ‘Adaptation’. I am glad that the genius is back at his best despite the ‘Confessions of a dangerous Mind’ disppointing hiccup. Undoubtedly his masterpiece as of yet, ESotSM succeeds brilliantly in portraying what most relationships are in their simplicity and complexity, happy and sad moments, ups and downs, initial euphoria and later boredom and disdain, excitement to have them start and the need to later on have them end. Add to that multi layers of intrigue and an undeniable message about destiny and how in the end there is one person for each of us and you get all romantics completely hooked.

Director Michel Gondry skillfully and masterfully manages to deliver Kaufman’s psychologically complex human sci fi story into a fabulous piece of movie making with stunning visuals and awesome camera work.There are numerous memorable scenes that get imprinted in one’s head and last way beyond their leaving the theatre. The gradual erasure of various components of a certain memory is hauntingly awesomely executed.

Jim Carrey proves again that he is more than just a (hilariously) funny guy. He reportedly took a major paycut for this role and I couldn’t think of anything more clever he could have done to elevate his status as ‘acteur extraordinaire’ and showcase a part of him that many of us never knew existed. He has what it takes to be funny, depressed, miserable, vulnerable, romantic, and very human. As a matter of fact, the only other multifaceted actor genius I know of is Robin Williams. And Jim is undoubtedly of the same caliber. He captures all of Joel, a daunting task in view of the character complexity and his numerous solo scenes which in turn render his job particularly more demanding. But he manages to pull through with ease. You can literally feel his pain, misery, and subsequent conflict as he, the shy and introverted Joel , comes to realize how in fact he does not want to let go of his memories of Clementine.

Kate Winslet also shines and, as expected of such a fine caliber actress, gives an A+ oscar worthy performance of irrational, impulsive and totally unpredictable Clementine in all her hair-color-matching moods.

Mr. Kauffman is undoubtedly a fascinating story teller. The way he chooses how the erasing process takes place is essential in making us identify with the characters and while being faced with a novel concept, we suddenly decide that what we see makes perfect sense and what Joel is going through is very much credible and realistic had we been in his shoes.

Kaufman decides that the memory erasure must be a gradual process that proceeds backwards from most recent to early. As it starts, we witness the letting go of what made the realtionship fail namely bickering, boredom, and bitterness and we, like Joel, are both happy and relieved to see these lost into oblivion. But as we further go back, we note and observe these two characters sweetly and tenderly loving each other and realize how despite their being quite opposites in character, they are indeed a great match. The positive energy flowing reaches beyond the screen and is contrasted with imminent tragedy, as we, like Joel, know what’s coming up next and that all this will exist no more and Joel won’t even remember what he had erased. And like Joel, we want the process to stop. Faced with our own demons, what is unraveling on the screen becomes too painful to watch and we await a miracle that would prevent this from going any further. And then when this does not come along, we cling to whatever little time we have left before all is lost:

Clementine: This is it, Joel. It’s going to be gone soon.
Joel: I know.
Clementine: What do we do?
Joel: Enjoy it.

It’s a concept of loss after love addressed in a novel and original way. In the end Joel, and most of us as a matter of fact, agree with Alfred Lord Tennyson when he once declared that ‘it is better to have loved and lost or to never have loved in the first place’. We will not sacrifice the good for the bad for the good is irreplaceable and is what we most appreciate in being alive.

Highly recommended. Must see fabulous masterpiece. One of the best movies of all time.

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