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    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind


    The loopy memory-erasure tale "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," from the writer of "Being John Malkovich," is a little too deliberately constructed but still a challenging mind-twister with fine performances by Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet.


    With his trippy, cerebrally exacting screenplays for "Being John Malkovich," "Adaptation.," and now "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," you have to wonder what kind of pernicious, whacked-out parenting Charlie Kaufman was subjected to as a child. Or, for that matter, what kind of prescription medication he's currently taking to deal with those past experiences.

    Directed by: Michel Gondry.
    Written by: Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry, Pierre Bismuth.
    Cast: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Gerry Robert Byrne, Elijah Wood, Thomas Jay Ryan, Mark Ruffalo, Jane Adams, David Cross, Kirsten Dunst, Tom Wilkinson, Ryan Whitney, Debbon Ayer, Amir Ali Said, Brian Price, Paul Litowsky, Josh Flitter, Lola Daehler, Deirdre O'Connell.
    Cinematography: Ellen Kuras.
    Edited by: Vald’s îskarsd—ttir.

    Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
    Directed by Michel Gondry (who also helmed the Kaufman-penned anthropological comedy "Human Nature"), "Eternal Sunshine..." is another high concept — and totally original — story from one of Hollywood's most imaginative writers. Like "'Malkovich" and "Adaptation." before it the film gets inside the heads of its characters like no other. WAY inside.

    I loved the ideas in the film, the suggestion that the way to be eternally happy is to free your mind of all bad associations and encumbrances (that being, in a nutshell, the paraphrased meaning behind the film's unbearable lightness of title, a phase attributed to Alexander Pope in the film, or maybe that was Pope Alexander?), and I loved the characters, the performers, with Kate Winslet staggeringly good as a young woman whose hair color changes as often as her mood. She sparks from the outset — impassioned and a little bit schizophrenic, credible, likeable, more.

    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind  
    But ultimately "Eternal Sunshine..." is simply too high-concept to resonate. I found myself enjoying its aspirations but was confused and occasionally bored by its destinations. And its failing, relatively speaking (this is still a good film after all, just not a great one), is that it's just too bloody poignant.

    Jim Carrey plays Joel Barish, a shy and compulsive individual who learns that his recent girlfriend Clementine (Winslet) — whom he met at a Long Island beach party or on the train to Montauk or some place he no longer remembers — has had an experimental procedure performed to delete him from her memory. Alternatively crushed and angered by this revelation, Joel employs the services of Lacuna, Inc. to vengefully return the memory-removing favor.

      Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    But love, it turns out, is harder to erase than one might think.

    As Joel undergoes the scientific treatment at the hands of Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson) and his mind-altering surrogates (played with compatible affection by Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, and "The Lord of the Rings"'s Elijah Wood) he recognizes the importance of Clem in his life and attempts to hide her away in the outer fringes of his psyche, a process that proves to be easier thought than done.

    As he managed in "The Truman Show," comedian Carrey pulls off another empathetic Everyman whose mind, one he's slowly losing, is being remotely controlled. His performance here, like the character he plays, is not as flashy or extroverted as Winslet's but it's every bit as special. Not only can the man talk out of his backside but he can act as well!

    "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" offers up a mesmerizing premise that, with the help of the engaging Carrey and Winslet, manages to be occasionally bright, oftentimes moving, and sporadically amusing. Had screenwriter Kaufman toned down his concept (which calls to task the very existence of deja-vu) a brow or two, it might have been even better.

    MARCH 30, 2004

    Reader comments on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind:

  • Nice!   from Tasneem, May 17, 2004
  • Just okay   from Sylvie, May 25, 2004
  • Good   from Travis, Dec 4, 2004
  • Re: Good   from Mary, Apr 1, 2005
  • wow.   from Mary, Apr 7, 2005
  • [no subject]   from Stephanie, Feb 26, 2007
  • great   from mia, Jun 28, 2007
  • amazing   from clementine, Oct 25, 2007

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