Worth A Look: 8.97%
Pretty Bad: 1.92%
Total Crap: 6.73%
16 reviews, 216 user ratings
|Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
by Scott Weinberg
It seems the novelty of trying to "figure out" Jim Carrey has waned, thankfully. Clearly the guy wants to make people laugh in very profitable goofball comedies AND participate in some of the most strange, oddball flicks in modern memory. So if we're all done trying to figure the guy out, maybe we can finally just sit back and enjoy what he has to offer. And in the case of 'Eternal Sunshine', he (along with his two amazing young filmmakers) has a whole LOT to offer.If you're doing a little research on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in an effort to decide if it's worthy of a trip to the multiplex, you're bound to notice that director Michel Gondry was the man behind a rather terrible comedy from a few years back entitled Human Nature. Ignore that movie entirely. Search instead for a phenomenal DVD from Palm Pictures entitled The Work of Director Michel Gondry. It's there that you'll find an absolute treasure trove of brilliantly conceived and amazingly cool rock videos, TV ads and various other little goodies.
"Seriously, movie fans: What more could you ask for?"
It's then that you'll make an immediate beeline to whatever theater is showing Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Some say that there are simply no new ideas left; that Hollywood has bled the art of storytelling completely dry and that there's simply nothing new under the sun. If it is true that great ideas are virtually extinct, it's probably because screenwriter Charlie Kaufman has them all stored away inside of his maniacal little cranium. This is a guy who simply oozes ideas both sly and sagacious in nature, and if you're unfamiliar with his previous works (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation. and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) then bang...you now have three excellent movies to add to your Netflix queue. (You can thank me later.) And yeah, Kaufman also wrote that Human Nature misfire, but we've already established how much time you should spend with that one. (Hey, even visionary screenwriters are only human!)
You take Kaufman's fantasically crafty screenplay, allow a playful and ingenious young director to meld it to meet his own arcane visions, you overload the cast with great performers like Carrey and Kate Winslet and Mark Ruffalo and Tom Wilkinson and Elijah Wood and even the ebullient Kirsten Dunst (offering arguably the best performance of her career), and you just sit back and let the sheer vibrant originality of the affair wash over you.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is so clever, so off-kilter and so supremely satisfying that it acts as a testament to the fine art of filmmaking. It actually gives movie lovers a little HOPE for their beloved craft. Nobody involved with this film can possibly expect it to be a $200 million dollar smash, and the fact that it's so startingly fresh and creative is proof that not every movie is created as a marketing tool first and (maybe) an entertaining flick second.
The basics of the plot, which are all you're getting from me, are as such: Joel and Clementine enjoy a brief and blissful love affair, up until they share a particularly nasty spat and Clementine heads off to the Lacuna Corporation to have all memories of Joel erased from her brain. When Joel discovers that his former love cannot even remember him, the desperate dope opts for the same surgical procedure...only to discover (in the middle of the process) that he really wants to keep his memories after all. About 75% of the movie takes place inside Joel's brain as two techies (Wood and Ruffalo) try to eliminate Clementine from his subconscious.
Much of Eternal Sunshine's wonder comes through the act of discovery, so the less said about the plot the better. Stuff that makes your eyes bulge out a little, stuff that brings a crooked grin to your face, stuff that jams a quick lump into your throat... Only a right bastard would spoil even a small portion of the surprises that Gondry and Kaufman have in store for their audience. Suffice to say: if you found yourself bemused and fascinated by Kaufman's earlier works, you'll have an absolute ball with this film. And if you're not, then Eternal Sunshine would be a fantastic place to start.
For the past few weeks, the main question about the movie seems to be: is it "as good as" or "better" than Malkovich and Adaptation.? To which your humble servant (that's me) would simply respond: "Yes. Absolutely." Because while both of those movies are almost criminally canny and addictively entertaining to behold, neither are the sort of flicks that incite a whole lot of heartfelt emotion. As wondrous as they are, both of those movies kind of keep their audiences at arm's length.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind obviously has the inspired and colorful creativity of Kaufman's earlier scripts, but it also has a heart as big as all outdoors. Anyone who has ever loved and lost will find something here that will tug at the heart-strings just a little. And this is a movie that's poignant through truth and sincerity; it has tiny little moments and quirks and familiar feelings that ring true. Nary a trace of push-button treacle or maudlin schmaltz can be found, and that's a truly refreshing thing to report.
The film looks gorgeous, the copious and subtly dazzling special effects will keep your eyes a'poppin', the cast is absolutely commited to this insane concept and they're supremely strong across the board, the cinematography by Ellen Kuras (Personal Velocity) is crisp and lovely, Jon Brion (Magnolia) contributes a pitch-perfect score... I could go on and on, but I think my point is made:
Go see this movie.
Support movies like this one and we'll get less movies like Tomb Raider 2.If 'Eternal Sunshine' doesn't make my year-end Top Ten, that means we're due for at least ten more movies as brilliantly entertaining as this one. Somehow I doubt that's going to happen.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8888&reviewer=128
originally posted: 03/19/04 20:59:26