A quick word of warning to Jim Carrey fans out there – his new film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, is not your typical Carrey film – it’s actually good.
It’s the story of Joel (Carrey), a shy, introverted man who, at the start of the film, is stunned to discover that his former girlfriend, Clementine (Kate Winslet), has had her memories of their relationship erased.
Out of desperation, he contracts the inventor of the process, Dr Howard Mierzwaik (Tom Wilkinson), to have Clementine removed from his own memory. But as Joel’s memories progressively disappear, he begins to rediscover the things that made the relationship work in the first place.
From deep within the recesses of his brain, Joel attempts to escape the procedure. As Dr Mierzwiak and his crew (Kristen Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood) chase him through the maze of his memories, it’s clear that Joel just can’t get his darling Clementine (pardon the pun) out of his head.
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind is a cinematic love/hate relationship. There are certain aspects to marvel at and others you wish could be erased altogether. Working from Charlie Kaufman’s (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) labyrinth of a screenplay, director Michel Gondry (Human Nature) does a great job grasping of the film’s uniquely odd and original concept and making it work.
While Ellen Kuras’ arresting visual style, accompanied by Valdis Oskarsdottir’s excellent editing, help develop Joel’s recession into the deeper regions of his memories to save the good memories of his former love, Gondry and Kaufman successfully establish Joel’s back-story, not just in regards to the path of his relationship with Clementine, but also in his childhood years.
Carrey’s performance, backed by a strong supporting cast, is more in line to his excellent work in The Truman Show and Man On The Moon than it is with the Ace Ventura films or last year’s Bruce Almighty. Doing a fine job conveying his character’s anxieties and insecurities, Carrey shows that when he doesn’t have to ham it up for the camera (something he doesn’t do once in this film, thank God), he proves that he has some genuine acting talent tucked away in him. Granted, these types of career-risking roles and films aren’t going to make Carrey any more financially sound, but they certainly will help people like myself take him a bit more seriously as an actor.
The one thing that didn’t work for me in this film was Clementine (if this screenplay confirms anything about Kaufman, it is that he has issues with the opposite sex). While Kate Winslet’s performance is quite good, as one would expect, the character that Kaufman has created for her to play is such an unlikable, high-maintenance pain in the neck that for the life of me, I can’t figure out why anyone in their right mind would bother telling her the time of day let alone attempt to carry out a relationship with her.
Give Kaufman a few points for not making Clementine the typical romantic comedy clich you’d find in, say, a Jennifer Aniston film, but making her the complete polar opposite while expecting us to warm up to her is an entirely different matter altogether. If the writer had met the viewer at least a little bit of the way so we could empathise with this character, the emotional impact of the story might have been strongly enhanced. It’s a testament to Winslet’s acting talent that we care in the slightest bit about this mental furball.
Whether one walks away fascinated or wanting to burn the cinema down in protest, it can be agreed upon that Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind is an original piece of cinema that lingers in your head for quite sometime afterwards… Just like a memory.