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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

  Directed by: Michel Gondry
Written by: Pierre Bismuth, Michel Gondry, Charlie Kaufman
Starring: Jim Carrey, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Wilkinson, Kate Winslet, Elijah Wood
Music by: Jon Brion
Links: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on the IMDb, Official site, Buy on DVD, Buy the Soundtrack, Buy Posters, Lacuna Inc.
Genre: Drama

This movie gets: 8.67 (3 ratings)
nofreelist.com Ranking: Ranked equal 28th of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) is also mentioned in em_fiction's review of 21 Grams (2003).

"Funny, I really remember this film" - a review by citizenjoe

I remember recently I had a meeting in a café near work. The person I was meeting was a woman who was to brief me about some work. I had never met her before. The café was a small, up-market establishment that featured a well stacked bar and served very good coffee. In the corner there was a flat screen television that beamed out a movie from the wall it hung upon.

The movie that was playing happened to be Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

It was a film we had both seen. I couldn't remember who I had seen it with. But I knew I liked it. A lot. I mentioned, that normally I didn't like Jim Carrey. Neither did she. But we agreed that he had been in some of the more outstanding films of the last 10 years. I mentioned Man on the Moon (1999), The Truman Show (1998). She added Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) and, one of my favourites, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000).

We both thought Kate Winslet was really refreshing playing a hyper Clementine Kruczynski, as well as terrific supports in Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo and Kirsten Dunst.

It was amazing. It felt really comfortable being with her. We chatted as if we had known each other for ages. We talked about likes and dislikes, bars we frequented, restaurants we ate at, coffee shops that served coffee worth going out of your way for.

There was something about her eyes, the smell of the skin, the sound of her laugh.

At the end of our meeting. I walked her to the street and shook her hand. it was warm and welcoming. Who knows; in another lifetime, in another time ... Who knows. Maybe we'll never know.

She reached into her bag to hand me one of her business cards. It was hidden deep down inside. A piece of paper flew out and landed on the ground. I noticed the scribble that was to remind her of an appointment she had had with Lacuna Inc. The appointment date was a couple of weeks ago.

Funny, I recognised that name.

citizenjoe gives this movie 9 out of 10.
Review created on Mon 10 Jan 2005

"Close, but no cigar" - a review by pearly

Writer Charlie Kaufman is not infallible. He's done some brilliant things, but then he's padded it out with some mediocre things (Adaptation (2002) and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002) respectively, for example). Thankfully, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind errs on the side of brilliant, but it's not as perfect as the more brilliant examples from his earlier career.

In a way, it almost seems a little... done. The plot devices which seemed innovative for Being John Malkovich (1999) are mixed up a bit and then reused here, lessening my excitement value. It is, of course, different to other films written by Kaufman, but what it comes down to is that it still feels familiar, and this is not the kind of feeling that makes a Kaufman film great. It's meant to be a bit of a challenge, something kinda out-there; whacky, and unusual. And, if this is the first Kaufman film you've seen, then it probably is. But if it's not, then it suffers a fair bit.

It probably didn't help that I figured out most of what was going on very early in the piece, so that the tying up of all the happenings seemed almost surplus material (and knowing where a film is headed has never been my strong point); but this is just testament to the fact that I feel I can almost read Kaufman's mind like a book by now.

So what's it all about? Well, first, you have Clementine (Kate Winslet). Clem is a little bit of a wild child, the kinda gal who dyes her hair a different colour every other week, and isn't afraid to ask guys out. Which is where Joel (Jim Carrey) comes in. Clem asks Joel out, and they begin a passionate relationship. But after a while, they break up, and Clem, being the wild one, heads on over to Lacuna Inc. to have all memory of Joel erased forever. Of course. It is only a matter of time before Joel discovers what Clem has done, and decides to do the same.

Rather than focussing on the before and after, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind finds its interest in the in between - the procedure itself. This becomes the basis of the film, with snippets of before and after being interspersed in a random way, so as to not give the audience all of the pieces of the puzzle at once. It's not a new technique, and given my early understanding, seemed to have not been utilised 100% successfully.

Carrey and Winslet do okay jobs as the two leads, but Winslet isn't entirely convincing with her green hair, and Dunst manages to surpass her in her storylines with the head doctor at Lacuna (Tom Wilkinson) and his second-in-charge (Mark Ruffalo).

There were certainly layers of the film that I found surprising and interesting - the of Mary (Kirsten Dunst) is an example of this. And it wasn't that the film didn't entertain throughout; it did. It just wasn't as much of a trip as other Kaufman films were for me. The most enjoyable parts were the camera tricks used on Joel's fading memories; these, at least, seemed unique.

pearly gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review created on Wed 9 Jun 2004

"Eternal brilliance of the Kaufman mind" - a review by em_fiction

Today in Hollywood, one of the most invaluable items is a script by Charlie Kaufman. His scripts are just about always funny, innovative, witty, engaging and extremely original. Regardless of how many times you think, after watching one of his films, "I don't think it's possible for him to think up something more original than that!" Kaufman somehow always does.

I mentioned at the end of my 21 Grams (2003) review that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind looked promising, but that was purely based on the fact that it was a film from Focus, an indie company responsible for two consecutive films I've instantaneously added to my all-time favourites list. I still stood by that expectation walking into Eternal Sunshine, and walking out I realised that my prophecies just couldn't have been any more precise. Eternal Sunshine belongs right up there with the other Kaufman masterpieces: Being John Malkovich (1999) and Adaptation (2002).

Malkovich was about a hidden portal into someone else's head. Adaptation was the story about the dilemmas faced by the writer when he wrote the script to the film. Now, Kaufman's setup for Eternal Sunshine: the remedial erasure of troubling memories. Joel (a very different Jim Carrey) is a shy, lonely, despressed guy who succumbs to a new scientific memory-erasing procedure hoping to rid himself of the misery left by his ex-girlfriend, Clementine (Kate Winslet). From that point on, the film takes on two plots: the first is within Joel's head — we witness him, inside his own head, reliving past moments with Clementine as they slowly disintegrate; the second plot revolves around the specialists performing the erasing — Patrick (Elijah Wood), Stan (Mark Ruffalo), Mary (Kirsten Dunst) and Dr. Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson) each come across quandaries of their own as they perform the procedure on Joel at his house.

A lot of people who don't know about this film will see an ad for it and immediately shun it once they see the billing of Jim Carrey's name. Now, I don't blame these people, but I do pity them, because this isn't a Jim Carrey film. This is pretty much as un-Jim Carrey as you can get for a film with Jim Carrey. What is most important about this Jim Carrey Punch-Drunk Love (2002) (there was even a little reminiscence of Punch-Drunk in the music, done by the same composer: Jon Brion) is that it succeeds. This is not unusual; normally when an actor who isn't particularly known for outstanding films changes his shtick to arthouse, the results are promising. It worked for Tom Cruise in Magnolia (1999), Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love and now Jim Carrey for Eternal Sunshine. As a matter of fact, it could work for any famous actor who's generally hated by the public, except for maybe Keanu Reeves.

Why does it work though? Why does it take a turn to arthouse for us to see that perhaps they do in fact have acting abilities? Well, the answer is clear: because the films are actually good. These actors had acting ability all along, it was just that it wasn't one of the prerequisites for any of their previous work. Give any actor the right picture and he or she will glow.

The cleverness and originality in Eternal Sunshine does not fall an inch short of that demonstrated in Malkovich and Adaptation. The film starts off as an intriguing look at a unique science invention, but there are also a sufficient number of twists and turns along the way which build up to a solid intense climax for both parties. The film pervades a wonderful essence of romance while maintaining a strong degree of suspense. The unique way of exploring Joel's life with Clementine keeps us engaged, hopping from one memory to the next witnessing the ups and downs experienced in their relationship. Because it is set in his mind, reality is intensely bent and distorted. Things that already don't appear normal also change quite abruptly as the memories disappear, literally, as in street signs, faces and objects just fading out, leaving nothing but blank remains.

The performances are excellent throughout: Jim Carrey, needless to say, gives a solid performance as Joel. Kate Winslet is also wonderful as the rough and rather intimidating Clementine. The rest of the cast are all fantastic: Mark Ruffalo, proving to be a very versatile actor with his computer geekiness; Elijah Wood, back to playing a regular, normal-heighted, fun-loving human; Kirsten Dunst, not really deviating from her usual formulaic self but still quite good, and of course, Tom Wilkinson, a fine actor indeed, playing the secretive doctor and inventor of the memory-erasing company, Lacuna Inc.

Michel Gondry, the ingenious director behind the film, has transformed Kaufman's script into a picture no less than Spike Jonze did with the other films. Gondry, like Jonze, is a music video aficionado, having already done a lot of outlandish material, particularly for Björk. I haven't seen the previous Gondry-Kaufman collarboration, Human Nature (2001), since it received virtually no publicity whatsoever, but it's supposedly the weakest of all Kaufman's work, which is hard to believe considering it stars the likes of Tim Robbins and Patricia Arquette.

I would've given this an easy 10/10, but there were several bits in the film that really stood out as not being very fitting to the rest of it, and I guess it kind of ruined the flow. I was really sinking into the bleak, miserable, poignant drama and thinking how good it was, but then there were these bits where it was pretty much just silly comedy, and it annoyed me enough to deduct 1 point. But that is only just a minor flaw compared to the rest of it; a wonderful, clever, moving, romantic piece of unique cinema.

em_fiction gives this movie 9 out of 10.
Review created on Sun 25 Apr 2004

Movie review statistics

Number of reviews: 3
Average rating: 8.67
Lowest rating: 8 (by pearly)
Highest rating: 9 (by citizenjoe, em_fiction)
 
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Reader comments

  1. Elijah Wood is one of the best actors I know. He'll make this movie known throughout the U.S.

    A comment from Sam on Tue 09 Nov 2004 17:11 #

  2. Certainly different, makes you think but is highly enjoyable

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Lisa on Fri 07 Jan 2005 11:51 #

  3. Fantabulous

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Sum1 on Fri 07 Jan 2005 11:58 #

  4. Great, detailed movie

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from just a fan on Fri 07 Jan 2005 11:59 #

  5. This movie is the most unique I've seen in ages. I love it!

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from spunky munky on Fri 07 Jan 2005 12:17 #

  6. It's an original romance for people with a brain.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from BHR (http://photosydney.blogspot.com) on Wed 12 Jan 2005 01:54 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 10.00 (5 ratings)

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