27 October 2004 | MisterWhiplash
an modern artistic triumph for all involved
Michel Gondry, credited as the director and co-writer of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, is only partly responsible for the success that the film achieves. He implements a awe-inspiring blend of style to a story that is perfectly non-linear. But then there is also the madman genius of the current screen writing plane- Charlie Kaufman- who has written three of the most ingenious, funny, and human of "little" Hollywood movies (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind).
He understands, and perhaps likely experienced to a degree, what a relationship holds to- the truth, to understanding, and then when it ends, how out memory changes the relationship. Enter in the concept that makes 'Eternal Sunshine' something of a un-official science fiction film - the Lacuna corporation, led by Tom Wilkinson's character, can erase just one person out of your memory, all of the experiences that you and the significant other had. So, when Joel (Jim Carrey) goes in to erase his memory of Clementine (Kate Winslet) after finding out she did just the same, he enters into a mind-warp. He goes through memories they had, happy ones, sad ones, some that are just what makes up what you have emotionally with the one you've loved. And sometimes, and to the behest of the assistants of Lacuna (Kirsten Dunst, Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo), Joel doesn't want them all to be erased.
As I mentioned, the plot is non-linear, which could've gone the wrong way if not done with skill. With a film like 21 Grams, which has a talented director and cast, the non-linear structure isn't necessary. But it's an asset that the story doesn't start from A to Z. To assist Gondry with this, he has the extraordinary Ellen Kuras as DP and Valdís Óskarsdóttir, an editor from Iceland. Their collaboration is crucial with Gondry and Kaufman (and co-writer Pierre Bismuth), as they bring all of these un-real images a real quality. Quite simply, there isn't a finer example of surrealism crossbred with realism in any other American film so far this year. The usage of lights, cuts, and with the kinds of special effects not expected (i.e. no CGI), add to the effect it has on a viewer. That the characters of Joel and Clementine are as enveloping as they are is also a credit to Kaufman.
But then there's one more part that completes the success of the film - the acting. Jim Carrey, very simply, is at his very best. He finds a balance from certain scenes in being like people we see everyday, feeling low, not much of interest, inward. And then when the memory erases begin, we get to see him act funny, but not like the kind of humor he brought with Ace Ventura or Dumb and Dumber. This is Carrey knowing this character just well enough to play off his counterpart, played by Winslet. She, meanwhile, is perhaps at her best. Her character is eccentric, funny, insightful, and wanting. She pulls it off. As do the supporting actors.
There's not much more I can say about this film, except to say that even after seeing it three times, I feel like I could watch it over and over and see a new shot, a new sequence, and new set of emotions tied to things. It's one of the great romantic dramedies of the decade.