Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Poster
2004
Michel Gondry

10/10

This is hands down the greatest romantic comedy of all time. Full disclosure: I was hesitant to give it a 10, just because it’s such an obvious choice among mainstream-challenged moviegoers. But when trying to think of a reason to stick between the parentheses, some sort of defect, I couldn’t come up with anything. It’s flawless.

What makes it so good? Probably something to do with the fact that you have one of the most visually creative directors alive working with Charlie Kaufman, the screenwriter responsible for “Being John Malkovich,” “Human Nature,” and “Adaptation.” There’s also the fact that it has Jim Carrey in his best dramatic role, and one of the greatest living actress in Kate Winslet.

The story goes briefly that Joel (Carrey) finds out that Clementine (Winslet) has had him erased from her mind after a rough break-up. Stunned, he goes to an office to investigate and finds a strange make-shift outfit that offers to delete unwanted memories from your brain (this is the part of the story that only Kaufman can do well). It is run by Dr. Mierzwak (the always-great Tom Wilkinson) and his screwy employees (Elijah Wood, Kirsten Dunst and Mark Ruffalo). Jane Adams and David Cross have small roles as friends.

Long story short: Joel decides to undergo the same procedure, but then while he’s asleep and having his memories zapped he decides that he doesn’t want to go through with it. Much of the rest of the movie takes place in his brain, as he tries to save memory after memory from being forever obliterated. He has to search for deep layers of his subconscious in order to hide with Clementine, in order to keep her from being destroyed. As you might imagine, this provides fascinating fun — visual and otherwise — for the audience.

If this doesn’t sound incredibly intriguing to you, I urge you to leave right now. The plot alone is enough to get you to see the movie. But on top of that you have Carrey, Winslet, and a terrific supporting cast. And on top of that, you have director Gondry, who creates dreamscapes better than anyone alive (with the possible exception of David Lynch). Just see “The Science of Sleep” if you don’t believe me. The man has a flair for nostalgia. He’s able to create settings and scenes that reflect such happiness and joy that you feel a devastating sadness at being unable to attain them.

The result is the story of a troubled relationship that is at once haunting and touching. While the ending is hopeful, there is no happily ever after. It’s probably what makes this the only romantic comedy that I love. . . the fact that it ends realistically, and reflects a truer relationship (warts and all) than we almost ever see as film-watchers. Gondry and Kaufman are clearly anti-fairy tale.

My only complaint with the film is that on one or two occasions Carrey gets really hammy, reverting to Old Jim Carrey, and it distracts. But those are a matter of seconds amid almost two hours of exquisitely moving art. They are easily overlooked in granting a perfect rating.

I don’t need to waste anymore of your or my time with this review. Just see the damn movie already! And if you’ve already seen it, see it again!

31 March 2010

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