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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 8.97%
Average: 3.21%
Pretty Bad: 1.92%
Total Crap: 6.73%

16 reviews, 216 user ratings

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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
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by EricDSnider

"Funny, inventive, brilliant, beautiful, haunting, poignant, unforgettable."
5 stars

Entertainment Weekly theorized in its post-Oscar issue that, due to factors like the Oscar broadcast being moved up to February and the brouhaha over screener tapes of to-be-considered movies, all the Oscar-bait films would no longer be released in December, but spread out in the year, to give voters more time to see them. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" puts this theory to the test. It is worthy of nominations for directing, editing, cinematography and screenplay, and perhaps some acting nods, too -- and here it is being released in the barren wasteland of March.

It was directed by Michel Gondry, though that probably doesn't tell you much (he's mostly done music videos); however, it was written by Charlie Kaufman, and that probably tells you plenty. His other screenplays, "Being John Malkovich, "Human Nature" (which Gondry also directed), "Adaptation" and "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," are renowned for their brainily funny executions of exceedingly bizarre premises. "Eternal Sunshine" fits right in there, but it also has far more emotional resonance and honest humanity than any of his previous, jokey-silly work.

The high concept this time is that a company called Lacuna has developed a means of erasing specific parts of people's memories -- ideal for that post-breakup anguish, where you wish you could just forget the person altogether. You give Lacuna all the physical items that remind you of the offender, and they use those to find and eradicate the memories attached to him or her. Even a future meeting with the person won't trigger any memories, because there are no memories to trigger. They're gone, man.

Joel Barish (Jim Carrey), a neurotic, shy fellow, learns all this the hard way when he tries to talk to his bohemian ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) and she seems not to recognize him. Mutual friends reluctantly fill him in on what happened. Enraged and hurt that she would go to such extremes -- I mean, what ever happened to just burning the love letters and eating ice cream? -- Joel sets out to have HER erased from HIS memory, too, only to discover while in the process that perhaps even painful memories ought to be retained.

Here, at last, is a performance from Jim Carrey that actually blends his comedic and dramatic abilities rather than ignoring one or the other. As we follow the memory technicians (played by Elijah Wood and Mark Ruffalo) backwards through Joel's failed relationship with Clementine, Carrey exhibits the entire bittersweet spectrum of emotions, from elation to agony and back again, that love produces. And when the situation calls for it, he breaks out his mad comedy skillz, most amusingly in a scene where he re-enacts a memory from when Joel was 4 years old.

And Kate Winslet is on fire, giving unquestionably her best performance since "Titanic" and perhaps her best ever. Clementine is free-spirited and impulsive (of course; those are the only kind of women that anxious, repressed men are allowed to meet in the movies), and Winslet is positively radiant with energy and comedic passion. I don't recall ever liking her as much as I did here.

Joel's memory-erasing process comprises most of the film, and director Gondry uses every cinematic trick in the book to create a brilliantly imaginative interior map of the character's mind, particularly in showing the dissolution of the Clementine-centered memories. Joel dashes across a train station with Clementine, with bystanders disappearing one by one as the scene is erased from his memory, Clementine last. Elsewhere, he speaks to her in a Barnes & Noble, and we slowly realize the titles are disappearing from the books' spines as they talk. One clever device after another is used, some funny, some poignant, as she is gradually taken out of his mind. Cinematographer Ellen Kuras and editor Valdis Oskarsdottir do inventive work in keeping up with Gondry's frenetic, ingenious vision.

I thought the film's underlying sadness reminded me a bit of "Punch-Drunk Love," and then I notice that film and this one had the same composer, Jon Brion. I made a note of his score for "Punch-Drunk Love," and I did the same again here, not realizing it was the same artist. His work in both cases is wistful and evocative, astutely underlining the tones of the films.

But in the end, "Eternal Sunshine" is mostly a comedy, even if the humor is tinged with longing and regret. Joel asks the Lacona founder Dr. Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson) whether there's any risk of brain damage with the procedure, and Mierzwiak replies, "Well, technically, the procedure IS brain damage." The technicians, aided by Kirsten Dunst as the receptionist and Ruffalo's girlfriend, are young slackers who treat their jobs with only basic seriousness, suggesting what I think is Kaufman's attitude, too: This is heavy stuff, but it sure is fun to mess around with it.

The movie is so inventive and beautiful that I don't see how it can be overlooked when next year's awards are given out. If something this good can emerge in March, then perhaps we are in for a great year at the movies. It gives me hope, anyway.

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originally posted: 03/21/04 19:55:17
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User Comments

11/13/13 Vanessa Campos one of my top movies 5 stars
10/27/12 Bob Wow, just wow. I went in with no idea, not even about the memory removal, and I'm sooo glad 5 stars
9/24/12 rob beautiful movie, top 5 favorite of all time 5 stars
7/28/12 Luis Rivera Extremely genuine and effective 5 stars
1/22/12 rXrumere No Comment 5 stars
8/23/11 Annie G Will stick with you, in a slightly annoying fashion. 3 stars
7/10/11 Todd Go watch Twilight, Cindy. That'll be more up your alley. 5 stars
6/27/11 DR A must see movie, with one of the most brilliant movie endings - simple yet poignant. 5 stars
7/18/10 Flounder One of my all-time favorite films. Intelligent and emotionally poignant. 5 stars
1/15/10 Diarmuid Hickey Wonderful. 5 stars
7/02/09 cindy Nothing funny here, this movie just plain sucked. BORING!!! 1 stars
11/21/08 Shaun Wallner Interesting Movie! 5 stars
10/05/08 Lenny Zane Kate Winslet's Oscar nomination for this tripe may be a sign of the end of civilization. 1 stars
5/12/08 jordan unforgettable imagery and beautifully crafted. everything works wonderfully. a fav 4sure 5 stars
1/13/08 R.W.Welch Highly original but overly fragmented. B- 4 stars
12/16/07 LuLu One of the best movies ever made!!!!! 5 stars
8/03/07 Me This really sucks.. boring and predictable 1 stars
6/15/07 Danielle Ophelia Most movies make me hate myself in the morning. Not this one. 5 stars
6/03/07 Gary of Winnipeg A very stirring movie but not manipulative 5 stars
5/13/07 the t-dawg Just Super-Awesome-Tacular 5 stars
4/08/07 H.M. Anyone who doesn't like this movie is an idiot. (I'm looking at you, one-star guys.) 5 stars
4/05/07 fools♫gold Not as good or as bad as people say (to me, anyway). Dream-like, and it does it right. 4 stars
2/16/07 Coenie Best performance by the brilliant Ms Winslet....EVER! 5 stars
12/24/06 David Pollastrini a bit slow in places but still good 3 stars
12/22/06 Bill Lambertson Timeless Beauty. Astonishing. 5 stars
11/29/06 Stanley Thai One of the weirdest, imaginative, best, romance ever! 5 stars
11/26/06 Jason of Essex Carrey has more than redeemed himself; Winslet is superb. Sad, surreal, beautiful and lol. 5 stars
11/16/06 Brian O'Neill A phenomenally creative, affecting, unpredictable, fevered dream of a movie. Adored it. 5 stars
11/04/06 Courtney This film is amazing, truly touching 5 stars
8/15/06 nathan one of this decades best and most original films 5 stars
7/13/06 Agent Sands Deserving of every bit of praise it has gotten. 5 stars
6/06/06 Dave Webber I hatedthis - w-w-a-a-a-y-y-y-y-y too pretentious. 2 stars
4/30/06 Doug Seriously, HBS needs to bring back the 'Fucking Awesome' rating; 'Awesome' doesn't do. 5 stars
4/21/06 Diamond This movie is amazing, beautiful, funny, witty, and heart catching... MUST SEE. 5 stars
4/01/06 Anthony Feor Carrey has hit rock bottom 1 stars
3/21/06 kerry god does this movie suck 1 stars
1/05/06 Andrew Cheung After the 6th viewing, the ending is so perfect it still gives me chills 5 stars
12/27/05 Sammu i don't use to leave a movie theatre before the end of the movie, but this one... blaghr!!! 1 stars
12/13/05 cooler Winslet still can't act and this movie sucks.BORINGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
12/01/05 Tara I was shocked by how good this movie was. The previews didn't do it justice. 5 stars
11/15/05 noops show it any mental hospital 1 stars
11/14/05 Jason Marjoram wikid awsome 5 stars
10/11/05 Agent Sands Kaufman is so brilliant that he makes u follow his own train of thought during the story. 5 stars
9/25/05 D Buckley Kind of touching. 4 stars
8/18/05 Stephen Beautiful and deep without being preachy... well worth your time. 5 stars
8/06/05 Zack Charlie Kaufman's best screenplay 5 stars
8/05/05 Gabriel Ruzin heartbreaking and incredible; one of my very favorite 5 stars
7/25/05 Eric Rollins The French will love this. Unfortunately I'm not decadent enough. 2 stars
7/23/05 Bad Critic Finally, a good Jim Carrey movie. Well, there was The Cable Guy. I guess I take that back. 4 stars
7/08/05 delli Great, but i want to see it. 5 stars
6/30/05 Chris The best movie of this decade, no doubt about it. 5 stars
6/28/05 R once again, kaufman misses the "comedy" mark, but for the better. he got lucky, THIS time. 4 stars
5/17/05 E-FUNK Absolutely floored by this film. Gets better and better every viewing. 5 stars
5/06/05 Regis Best movie of 2004. 5 stars
5/02/05 dee smith aweful 1 stars
5/01/05 ed.williams Great movie. Jim Carrey is becoming a great actor...possible another Robin Williams 5 stars
4/22/05 akram One of the worst movies I have ever seen. 1 stars
3/30/05 Regis Malone One of the best movies of the 21st century, if not the best. 5 stars
3/26/05 Mike Best movie of 2004. No, make that the last five years. At least. 5 stars
3/26/05 MaryBeth Isaac Good - thought provoking; insightful. Very unique storyline. Kate Winslet was perfect 4 stars
3/25/05 dwarzel Hopefully no more talking out of his backside for Carrey 5 stars
3/24/05 Michael Lloyd unlike any other film, great cast, great writing, daringly original 5 stars
3/09/05 jeff beautiful movie!!! very touching. 5 stars
3/02/05 Taylor Fladgate A masterpiece...blows your mind... 5 stars
2/14/05 Angela Saunders Very different movie, unique! 4 stars
2/14/05 ELI You suck William! :) one of the best movies of the year 5 stars
1/26/05 Mark the best film of 2004 5 stars
1/25/05 Shawn jim carrey is great. great movie 5 stars
1/20/05 lindy03 This is a great film! 5 stars
1/16/05 Charlene Javier Brilliant! Bravo! 5 stars
1/15/05 Dara Elizabeth Van This film has made me look at life from a new perspective. Kate Winslet's BEST EVER!!! 5 stars
1/12/05 Tom Benton Easily the best film of 2004, and one of the best ever made. 5 stars
1/12/05 HL Twilight Zone?..Love Story?..Agree With TFH 'bout Kate. 4 stars
1/08/05 Martin Took some effort, but well worth it. 5 stars
1/04/05 Echo a lovestory with a twist. now my alltime favorite 5 stars
1/04/05 Abbath Very well made and written. Best of 2004. 5 stars
1/03/05 Max An aquired taste. 4 stars
12/30/04 Debra Sherman even made my nonemotional boyfriend sit up and take notice 5 stars
12/21/04 ELI Best movie in 2004! :) 5 stars
12/14/04 Tiffany Faye Hawthorne What Golden Globe idiots mistook this for a decent movie???? Kate Winslut sucks!!!!! 1 stars
12/12/04 AlbieOne Check it out,,, 4 stars
12/12/04 Charlene Javier Excellent! Kate Winslet deserves an Oscar! 5 stars
12/11/04 Jerry Very original. The best movie I've seen in 2004 5 stars
12/11/04 y2mckay vastly overrated, although Carrey gives a surprisingly good dramatic performance 3 stars
12/07/04 Lily To date, one of the best movies I have seen......A poignancyso pure and lethal 5 stars
12/03/04 Film Student Excellent movie, great subtle effects. See it. 5 stars
12/01/04 lolalaloca13 One of my top 5 fave films now! 5 stars
11/27/04 Matt F. Probably the best movie i've seen this year 5 stars
11/23/04 doinkie Stunning, thought provoking and brilliant. Best pic of 04 5 stars
11/23/04 Peter Scadding Slow to start with then the twists and turns kick in, marvellous film 4 stars
11/22/04 Jim Compelling psychological fairy tale shows how we forget good memories when things go bad. 5 stars
11/22/04 David Best movie of the year. 5 stars
11/21/04 Abbath A beautiful story filled with genuine emotion delievered in the most unique fashion. 5 stars
11/19/04 Jennifer I cannot get this movie out of my head, it's amazing! 5 stars
11/18/04 Ry Predictable and a waste of time. 1 stars
11/18/04 Jews for Hitler Right on the mark with toxic relationships. 4 stars
11/14/04 Nadia Fantastic. I loved it. 5 stars
11/07/04 Phil M. Aficionado Glad I saw it; innovative, well made, but too much hocum for my tastes 3 stars
11/06/04 Sara You're missing out if you don't see this. 5 stars
11/04/04 Alissa Lubanski This movie is a piece of shit. 1 stars
11/01/04 Monster W. Kung Frankly, I expected better than this. Not bad, but far from great. 3 stars
10/30/04 Elise WOW, best movie I saw this year! 5 stars
10/28/04 s4|nt you probobly think your artsy dont you? it blows 1 stars
10/27/04 The Talking Elbow Left me feeling 'bleh' at the end. Lacks real substance, more style then anything. But good 3 stars
10/23/04 Mikami Very sophisticated, non-linear film! 5 stars
10/13/04 Laura Defininutly awesome!!!!! 5 stars
10/09/04 Flounder Incredible 5 stars
10/03/04 Doc Hollywood Thought provoking and evocative. 5 stars
9/30/04 Flounder I'm absolutely stunned that I enjoyed this. 5 stars
9/29/04 MikeC Best movie i've seen in a decade 5 stars
9/25/04 Agent Sands One of the freshest, greatest movies in awhile. 5 stars
9/23/04 brit this is an amazing film. it is more than just simple entertainment.rather it is an artwork! 5 stars
9/23/04 nh great 5 stars
8/15/04 Peter James The best films of the year 5 stars
8/06/04 Terry Best film I've seen all year, or even the last couple 5 stars
8/05/04 Elena Best screenplay and direction in ten years 5 stars
8/02/04 Luna Pierce This movie has got to go on the top ten best movies of the year if not the last decade. 5 stars
7/25/04 marcelo marques Briliantly made. K. takes us on a journey which will never be erased from our minds..... 5 stars
7/21/04 dropdead Amazing! Best movie I've seen in a very long time! 5 stars
7/17/04 legend Hands down the best film this year. Great movie. 5 stars
7/08/04 Liz I loved this movie when I saw it. It was able to actually keep my attention the entire time 5 stars
7/01/04 Mikey Crunt I love this film. I was the only person in this old-fashioned cinema. Only in the UK 5 stars
6/12/04 Elena If you didn't like it, then you shouldn't have seen it because for what it is it's amazing 5 stars
6/09/04 S.F. Slow in the begining. A film that atleast tries to be different. Worth a watch. 4 stars
6/08/04 James Kustes One of 2004's best. Great soundtrack by ELO, Beck, and Jon Brion! 5 stars
6/02/04 Iris Dementia Praecox If Kirsten Dunst hadn't done VIRGIN SUICIDES, this would be every cast member's worst film! 1 stars
6/02/04 Norma Lehigh Woo fonvoulted cor turds! 1 stars
6/02/04 Turtle Touching, bizarre, and yet strangest of all, very real. Viva Charlie Kaufman! 5 stars
6/01/04 Sheila Evans ALONG CAME POLLY meets FATAL ATTRACTION meets 50 LAST DATES. 1 stars
5/31/04 Edler The ending was a disaster... like they ran out of money and had to wrap up in a hurry. 4 stars
5/27/04 Melissa P i loved the movie it's worth to see it, one of the few movies of its type that i enjoyed. 5 stars
5/26/04 Proteus Amazing performances, compelling creative script, and directed with flair. A treasure. 5 stars
5/23/04 Jackie Thomas original, great movie 5 stars
5/20/04 Alan Liddle In my Top 10 - Very left field! 5 stars
5/20/04 cpbjr One of the best movies I have seen in a long time. The story and its telling -- genius! 5 stars
5/20/04 Agent Sands Extremely effective. It may be kinda confusing, but it kicks ass overall. 5 stars
5/19/04 Elena Cloest thing to a perfect movie I've ever seen 5 stars
5/18/04 JoeManco Each prayer accepted, and each wish resigned 5 stars
5/16/04 steph an excellent film. really intresting and different ! loved it! :) 5 stars
5/15/04 skye so glad kate wasn't drew b. nice movie, but getting tired of reality-manipulation gimmicary 4 stars
5/14/04 earl duron WEIRD AND OVERATED=ANNOYING 2 stars
5/11/04 Graham Great acting and script killed by gimmicky over-direction 3 stars
5/11/04 Helen Bradley worst film of the decade 1 stars
5/11/04 AR Utterly wonderful acting and filming; a beautiful concept as well. 5 stars
5/11/04 Kimberly absolute genius 5 stars
5/07/04 DM Hooray for Jim Carrey! Found a new character at last! 5 stars
5/06/04 Mark Fulwiler Intelligent, well acted and entertaining 5 stars
5/01/04 sulky Kaufman brilliant as ever, Gondry underrated, wonderful cast 5 stars
5/01/04 Spud Envy Fabulous, funny, provocative and KIRSTEN DUNST in her undies!!! YOWZA 5 stars
4/27/04 gabrielle amazing! cant stop thinking about it 5 stars
4/27/04 Reini Urban Where Adapation failed, here it works. 5 stars
4/24/04 lacondora great, weird, wonderful flick 5 stars
4/24/04 Jorge Guimera heart and mind trip... a truly life experience 5 stars
4/23/04 mccn22 great 5 stars
4/23/04 ospinad simply put, best movie EVER! 5 stars
4/22/04 Kathy Brilliant love story, heartbreaking and funny too, Best of 2004 so far 5 stars
4/21/04 John Wallace long boring and confused 2 stars
4/20/04 Rosie R Brilliant! 5 stars
4/20/04 Marc Reasoner Bittersweet brilliance 5 stars
4/20/04 T$ excellent 5 stars
4/19/04 Boris Brilliant. Winslet is so adorable in this film, while Carrey holds his own. 5 stars
4/19/04 Owen Earp Phenomenal film... Jim Carrey & Kate Winslet are both truly captivating. True storytelling. 5 stars
4/19/04 Kevin c This movies sucks 1 stars
4/19/04 Nipun Sareen Smashing! Just one of the movies you would like never to end !!!! 5 stars
4/19/04 frankie stein deep and thought provoking. My new favorite movie 5 stars
4/18/04 zeitgeist Brilliant. Kaufman is a 21st century Philip K. Dick with glitz 5 stars
4/15/04 Agent Sands So deep it gets to boggle the mind into tying itself in knots, but it sure is great. 5 stars
4/14/04 CB truly beautiful...congrats Kaufman 5 stars
4/14/04 Aaron Artfully tasteful, but not great 3 stars
4/12/04 Jessica awesome movie 5 stars
4/10/04 Sean Anderson Has made me look at movies in a whole new light. One of my absolute favorites. 5 stars
4/09/04 colleen beautiful. 5 stars
4/08/04 Robert Wow, absolutely amazing. It'll mess with your head for a week 5 stars
4/07/04 mason ok if you like watching multi-millionaires try to play "regular-folks", annoying soundtrack 3 stars
4/07/04 re a great film 5 stars
4/05/04 Kbar a bit overobvious of a true mindfuck here 4 stars
4/02/04 Robert Goodwin Please tell everyone you know to go see this movie!!! Absolutely Incredible. 5 stars
4/02/04 othree great & touched way i can't express, carey (rocked)& winslet = wonderful 2 5 stars
4/02/04 Andy Lindsay Truly excellent. I'll see it again before it leaves the theaters. 5 stars
4/01/04 Jessie i loved it! 5 stars
4/01/04 Nicole Very solid movie, I was impressed. 5 stars
3/30/04 Barrett A stunningly beautiful and human film. 5 stars
3/30/04 jefftucson Best film I've seen in about a year. 5 stars
3/30/04 chris. awesome...NOT terrific 5 stars
3/28/04 FrayLo Takes a while to get started, but definitely relateable and compelling. 5 stars
3/28/04 Margie very very good... i think most people can relate with the subject matter 4 stars
3/28/04 average guy It's Worth a Look, but I was expecting too much after the buzz 1 stars
3/28/04 Kristin Fantastically creative and touching as well. "Being John Malkovich" with heart. 5 stars
3/27/04 Nathaniel No other word but amazing is needed 5 stars
3/27/04 Alicia I usually avoid anything with Jim Carey, but give him an Oscar! 5 stars
3/27/04 Melissa Gaugert Wonderful, surprising, sad, happy, funny --great all around movie! 5 stars
3/26/04 Eric This movie is incredible... It really touched me because, basically, I AM Joel. 5 stars
3/26/04 Emily When it was over i just sat there and took big breaths... 5 stars
3/26/04 rojo Great movie, be patient. 4 stars
3/25/04 Rich Great, thought provoking movie 5 stars
3/24/04 rje I like Jim Carrey but this is the worst movie imaginable 1 stars
3/24/04 Desperado Perfect, Incredible, I have seen a lot of movies, and this is one of my favorites, A+ 5 stars
3/24/04 cobra commander pretty damn good job by carey... a bit magnolia'esque nonetheless... fantastic!! 5 stars
3/24/04 Mortis Beautiful, engaging, engrossing, distrubing, saddening & uplifting - wonderfully acted 5 stars
3/23/04 Jon Jabber incredible acting performances especially from carrey, dunst, and winslet 5 stars
3/23/04 Mitch this film was really strange, and I don't think I got it. Mostly , it made me really sad. 4 stars
3/23/04 A F This will be hard to beat this year!!! In my mind anyway. 5 stars
3/22/04 Z_Fine The best film I have ever seen. 5 stars
3/22/04 susan lee kaufman rules 5 stars
3/22/04 midLI Cannot wait until I see it again! Better than awesome. 5 stars
3/22/04 Bubba Jones What 'Punch Drunk Love' was supposed to be (without the hype, too) & more. 5 stars
3/22/04 Koitus Parts were confusing, because of "jumbled" time-line(s); great flashbacks to childhood! 4 stars
3/21/04 True Grit Memento is about ten times better. The actors were cool but the movie lead nowhere. 2 stars
3/21/04 Titus Fantastic movie in every way. 5 stars
3/20/04 john wonderful, clever as 'Momento, romance, love etc. 5 stars
3/19/04 Cameron Slick An amazing, provactive, genius romantic comedy dreams are made of. 5 stars
3/15/04 Ray Carrey is good, but it isnt that much a comedy 4 stars
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  19-Mar-2004 (R)
  DVD: 04-Jan-2005


  15-Apr-2004 (M)

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