|| Home Page | Welcome | Contents | Staff | Support Us ||

Arts & Culrture/Reel Dealz
Date Posted:3/23/04

Enternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
by:Edwardo Jackson

MOVIE BIASES: C'mon, it's Kaufman. I'm pre-sold.
MAJOR PLAYERS: Jim Carrey (Bruce Almighty), Kate Winslet (Titanic), Tom Wilkinson (In the Bedroom), producer/screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation), and director Michael Gondry (Human Nature)

"I wish I never met you!" This is a harsh statement that all of us have, at some time, thought about or said to someone or, worse yet, have had said to us. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" gives this phrase a whole new, disturbing meaning. If you could truly erase someone from your memory, would you? Better yet, could you?

Joel Barish (Carrey) is a typical, schlubby, Kaufmanesque hero - shy, sardonic, a touch anti-social. When he finds out that his recent ex-girlfriend Clementine (Winslet) has had the focused erasure of her relationship with him to the point that she doesn't even recognize him, by golly, he's going to have the same thing done to him. But as he undergoes the process, inside his brain he rebels, trying to steal away his most precious memories of Clementine to a place the erasure "professionals" of Lacuna, Inc. can't find them. Mirroring Joel's own fight within his brain for his memories is a drama that unfolds involving the Lacuna staff that strikes to the very core of the ethical and philosophical realities involved in socially engineered memory erasure.

This movie is typical Charlie Kaufman - and that's a great thing. Oscar-nominated Kaufman is the rare Hollywood screenwriter whose influence is so pervasive on a film purely through his writing that he gets director approval on his films (the equivalent of the Secretary of State getting to approve the President). Employing his previous collaborator Gondry from the underseen "Human Nature," Kaufman is in fine form with his trademark stream of consciousness dialogue, non-linear storytelling, and playful distortions of our perception of reality. It's always a visual and technical challenge to articulate the hyperkinetic Kaufman imagination but here the production values are all on point. Gondry uses everything from forced perspective to Gaussian blur to filter Joel's re-experiencing his myriad of memories, some as a child, some as an adult.

Finally, Jim Carrey achieves the middle ground as an actor that portrays the best in his comedic timing and dramatic talent. Wry, understated, yet still playful in his emotional yo-yo of a voice, Carrey is perfect for the material and his shy, journal-writing Joel, a man so down on love he believes "Valentine's Day is a holiday invented by greeting card companies to make you feel like crap" (hmm, Joel might have a point there…). Hoarding a career's worth of restraint in one film, Carrey is wonderfully subdued for the most part yet reservedly passionate as a man who's fundamentally boring to the outside world but wonderfully alive inside his mind. When Carrey mumbles to a hyperactive Clementine that "constantly talking isn't necessarily communicating," not only do you believe him but also you believe IN him. Ridiculously talented REEL DEAL Crush Winslet matches Carrey wit for wit, overpowering him in most scenes due to the irrepressible nature of her character. Winslet's Clementine is quirky, unpredictable, sexual, and impulsive, the center of attention in any scene (usually because of her color-changing hair) as walking, talking chaos theory. The rest of the cast is spot-on support with Tom Wilkinson's memory-erasing lead doc, Mark Ruffalo and Elijah Wood's erasure specializing nimrods, and Kirsten Dunst as a happy go-lucky receptionist with more going on than meets her spotless mind.

But we have to come back to Kaufman. Based off an interesting if not obscure idea named after an interesting if not obscure line from an Alexander Pope poem, "Eternal Sunshine" raises an issue that stays with you like Joel's stubborn memories of Clementine: Are all memories worth saving? Philosopher John Locke claimed that we are all born into this world with a tabula rasa - a blank slate - of memories and experiences waiting to be filled up, a slate which forms who we are. If we selectively try to erase that slate, does that change who we are? And can we even erase the bad memories entirely without affecting the good? Can we even know good without bad? In a very entertaining way, "Sunshine" raises these philosophical questions and more.

This movie is also the ultimate "be careful what you wish for" scenario. Sure, we've all had bad experiences and relationships. It's amazing what you remember from a relationship - the silly games, inside jokes, and secret, meaningful locales. Even at its worst, those memories - good and bad - are worth saving. This movie reminds us that, as much as you try, you can never wipe someone completely from your memory. And even if you could, you're still no better off than if you had left your tabula alone. When it comes to life and love, nature, if not our own very selves, will always find a way.

Rare is the movie that makes you think seriously about such matters while engaging you along the way. Rarer still is that person who can erase this subtly powerful movie from his memory. And the next time an ex says "I wish I never met you!" know, with a smile, that this is a wish that is impossible to fulfill.

@@@@ REELS
An urban legend/instant classic.

Like what you read? Agree/disagree with The Reel Deal? Think he's talkin' out his...HUSH YO' MOUF! (I'm only talkin' about The Reel Deal!) Email him at ReelReviewz@aol.com!

Edwardo Jackson is the author of the novels EVER AFTER and NEVA HAFTA, (Villard/Random House), a writer for UrbanFilmPremiere.com, and an LA-based screenwriter. Visit his website at www.edwardojackson.com

© Copyright 2004

|| Home Page | Welcome | Contents | Staff | Support Us ||

Back to the top