Wednesday, March 28, 2012

#590. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Directed By: Michel Gondry

Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Tom Wilkinson

Tag line: "You can erase someone from your mind. Getting them out of your heart is another story"

Trivia:  Features Kate Winslet's own favorite performance. She mentions this in EMPIRE Magazine

Given the chance, would you erase every bad memory, every unsettling recollection, every embarrassing moment from your conscious mind? 

Dr. Howard Mierzewak (Tom Wilkinson), founder of Lacuna Enterprises, has developed a revolutionary new technique which allows him to do just that: purge people's unwanted memories. 

Joel (Jim Carrey) is devastated to learn that, following one of their many fights, his longtime girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) underwent Dr. Merzewak's procedure, and had him erased from her memory. Now, as far as she’s concerned, Joel is just another stranger in the crowd. 

Angry and depressed, Joel visits Lacuna and asks them to clear his mind as well, purging his memories of Clementine. Once the procedure begins, however, Joel, trapped within his own subconscious, finds he still has feelings for Clementine, and doesn’t want to forget their good times together. But is he too late to stop the process? 

Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, the man behind the extraordinary Being John Malkovich, infuses every character in this film with personality to spare. As played by Jim Carrey, Joel is a withdrawn, needlessly tentative boyfriend who worries about every little aspect of his relationship with Clementine (is he outgoing enough for her? Is she getting bored?). Having made a career out of playing energetic characters, the part of Joel was a stretch of sorts for Carrey, yet he pulls it off without a hitch. 

Kate Winslet’s Clementine is the exact opposite of Joel; a wildly flamboyant free spirit who dyes her hair orange and dances in the middle of the street. It’s easy to see what keeps them together; Joel feeds off of Clementine’s spontaneity, while she finds security in Joel’s level-headed approach to life. 

Unfortunately, these drastic differences in their personalities also lead to a bit of friction... and total memory erasure! 

The various supporting players in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind are just as well-rounded. Tom Wilkinson’s Dr. Mierzewak is the genius behind this new procedure, yet we eventually discover that he may have developed it more out of necessity than in the name of science. Kirsten Dunst is at her bubbly best as Mary, the nurse who is head-over-heels in love with the boss. Stan (Mark Ruffalo), the technician, is, in turn, in love with Mary, while Patrick (Elijah Wood), the most unscrupulous employee of Lacuna Enterprises, fell for Clementine while they were purging her memory, and is now using information from her confidential file to win her over. Every character is so wonderfully fleshed out that each could, in essence, be the lead in their own film. 

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a joy to watch because of how visually vibrant it is. The journey through Joel's mind while he's undergoing the procedure is a trippy, surrealistic adventure, a world of faceless beings and disappearing book shelves. Director Michel Gondry pulls out all the stops for this one, marrying visual excitement with Kaufman's brilliantly rich screenplay and creating a truly colorful film in the process. 

Yet, despite all the eye candy, the movie remains, from start to finish, a character piece. As pleasing to the senses as it is to the psyche, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is the best of both worlds.

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