Monday, January 9, 2012

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Everyone is aware that the romantic comedy genre has turned into the biggest cliche in Hollywood over the past few years. However once in a while, there's at least one movie a year that attempts to do something new with the fledgling genre, and surprisingly ends up succeeding with it's innovations. The most important example of that kind of film is 2004's "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," which not only added a science fiction/fantasy twist, but also now stands as one of my favorite movies of all-time, too.

Joel Barrish (Jim Carrey) is a depressed, emotionally withdrawn man who doesn't really have anything positive going for him in life all. That's until he boards a New York train and meets Clementine (Kate Winslet), a immensely free-spirited woman who helps bring Joel out of his down-on-his-luck attitude. What they don't know though, is that they were both former lovers who had the memories of their relationship erased by Lacuna Inc., a New York City firm that specializes in erasing the memories a certain person doesn't want to retain anymore in their life. The script uses a nonlinear narrative structure switching in between the present where Lacuna employees (Mark Ruffalo,Kirsten Dunst and Elijah Wood) are in the process of erasing Joel's memory, which intercut with Joel's memory starting with his and Clementine's break-up and ending with the first time they met each other. During the memory erasure period though, Joel tries to fight off the process in order to hold on to the happier times that he and Clementine had with one another, which leads to the interference of lead Lacuna doctor Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson) to prevent him from doing so.
As far as acting goes for a romantic comedy (romantic dramedy can be pertained to this too, though), it will hardly ever get much better as far as this ensemble goes. Jim Carrey has shown audiences that he can act serious apart from the goofball comedies he stars in, which is showcased best by his lead role in "The Truman Show" (one of my all-time favorite movies). Here, Carrey delivers an emotionally reserved performance as Joel, where he forgoes his comedy chops and instead like his performance in "The Truman Show," develops a character that feels so real because of how genuine and relatable its personality is. Kate Winslet also delivers one of her best performances as Clementine, as she is full of nonstop free spirit and compassion that translate to her perfectly nailing down the film's offbeat, quirky moments of comedy. In addition, the supporting cast comprised of Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst, Elijah Wood, and Tom Wilkinson deliver some of the finest performances of their careers, too.

Director Michel Gondry's background in directing music videos helps lend this film an artistic style that makes each scene look like it was straight out of a painting, much like what would've happened if Spike Jonze was behind the camera calling the shots. Gondry uses a series of original visual tricks concerning Joel's fading memories with Clementine, especially in sequences in his memory where objects either disappear or turn white from their original color. That style ends up giving off a feeling of odd realism, where you actually feel like you're really inside Joel's memories in the process of erasure. In addition, Gondry pulls off several camera tricks where certain objects in a scene disappear from the shot, and end up reappearing in new spots.
Charlie Kaufman in my opinion, is the greatest screenwriter of the last decade of film, and his screenplay for this film serves as the pinnacle point to his illustriously original writing career. As usual in great Kaufman style, the dialogue between his characters is balanced perfectly by profound real-life conversations and well-timed moments of both quirky and dark comedy. Additionally, Kaufman retains his signature style of symbolism sprinkled throughout the film, which especially deals with Clementine's hair changing colors throughout to express the status of her and Joel's relationship. Kaufman also does an ingenious job at transitioning Joel's memories in reverse order, where the film utilizes jump cuts in the editing to catch the viewer by surprise when you're placed inside his next memory, usually with objects from the previous one still evident in the shot.

"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" is without a doubt one of the most thought-provoking movies of the last decade, but also one that's heightened by brazenly original imagination and execution. I'm also not one that usually thinks about life in general during a movie, but this film had me thinking in my mind throughout about the aspects of the human memory, in addition to the complexity of both love and relationships. An astounding work of cinematic art that deserves to stand alongside "There Will Be Blood" as the greatest films of the 2000s decade, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" is a wondrously smart romantic dramedy that will quite possibly stand as one of the most poignant romance dramas in cinematic history.

Final Grade: A

1 comment:

  1. Ahhh, great movie... glad you liked it so much. One of my favorite Jim Carrey performances too (though The Truman Show really is hard to beat.) Excellent review!