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   ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004) 

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CAST
Jim Carrey
Kate Winslet
Mark Ruffalo
Kirsten Dunst
Elijah Wood
Tom Wilkinson
David Cross
Jane Adams
Ryan Whitney

DIRECTED BY
Michel Gondrey

PURCHASE


DVD




Time: 108 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Drama/Romance/Comedy

Won Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Nomination for Best Actress (Winslet).


Charlie Kaufman's unbridled imagination creates yet another unforgettable movie-going experience with this unusual look at love. While SUNSHINE may be his most straightforward story yet, it's far from the usual mindless, boy meets girl of his dreams, overcomes obstacles to be with her and they live happily ever after tale. Mostly because it's told in a simply stunning manner – backwards through the memories of Joel (Carrey) as he goes through a procedure to wipe all traces of Clementine (Winslet) out of his head, and therefore his life, for good. It's a brilliant concept that allows the audience to experience, along with Joel, how their relationship went wrong, as well as why it was so right. She may have made him miserable at the end, but as he re-experiences what they had together, he realizes why he fell in love with her to begin with and becomes desperate to stop the procedure before she's lost to him forever.

What began out of spite (she impulsively erases him first after a major argument, so he decides to return the favor), turns into an honest, amusing and heartbreaking experience. What makes it so compelling is that these two people are just normal, average folk trying to find a safe place to come home to. Joel and Clementine have vastly different ways of living life, which is why they are initially so drawn to each other. She's impulsive and trying to suck the marrow out of every second, he's a quiet loner, who's unable to come out from under his shell. Like most of us, they expect/hope that the other will change their life for the better, make them complete and fix all their inner demons. Of course, when that doesn't happen – love doesn't make your personal issues disappear, it merely hides them for awhile – they lash out at each other, destroying the one thing that used to make them feel worthwhile and needed.


"I still thought you were going to save me. Even after that."

By being forced to objectively rewatch what happened, Joel discovers he's partly to blame for the demise of their love and his memories rekindle the joy he once felt with Clementine. He's in a race against time and his own mind to hide his memory of Clementine in places within his past that the good folks at Lacuna (the company that provides the memory wiping service) won't find her. They may be destined to be together, but we don't know that until the end when they are faced with the chance to start over again, only this time with their eyes open and their hearts broken. There's hope, yet it's quite possible they may still not survive the long haul. While this may sound somewhat confusing, the way the story unravels is quite simple and as it goes along, more and more devastating to endure.

Carrey gives his most subtle performance to date, playing a shy, uptight loser who finally finds the strength to fight for what he wants in life. Though we never learn all that much about why Joel is how he is, Carrey still manages to make you feel his pain and root for his success. Winslet has the harder role, since most of what we discover about Clementine is through Joel's interpretation of events, which, as we all know, are merely his point of view. Thankfully, due to clever writing and Winslet's talent, Clementine is a consistent and fully fleshed out character with her own opinions and attitudes about life, even within Joel's head. She holds true to her nature and once she understands the situation begins to fight with him to "stay alive." Many of the film's funniest moments come from his transplantation of her into his childhood memories. What grounds the film in reality are the sections involving the Lacuna employees, played by Wood, Ruffalo, Wilkinson and Dunst. Unfortunately, their stories are far from compelling and though necessary to a point, drag the film down. Their characters are not well-developed, so it's hard to care about them and their troubles all that much. Thankfully, their part is kept to a minimum.

Though the story is unique in itself, it's the execution that really makes this film a must see. It's visually one of the most intricate and clever uses of the medium to come along in quite awhile. Not because the story is told in reverse, but because Gondry and company use all the tricks at their disposal to generate the look and feel of being inside someone's mind, where the normal laws of nature do not apply. The film skips effortlessly from one memory tableau to the next without ever feeling disjointed. It's a masterstroke of effects and editing that you almost fail to notice because the story is so passionately and convincingly told. Clem and Joel's final chance to say goodbye, during the memory of their first meeting on Long Island, is an amazing mixture of visuals and emotions you have to see to believe. How they pulled off this miraculous feat – the house literally disappears around them – while still being true to the characters is a testament to all the talent involved. Kaufman's take on love may not be everyone's cup of tea, however, ETERNAL SUNSHINE is a film that I think is more realistic about romance and relationships than most of the usual Hollywood fare. The characters may be together at the end, but they had to suffer to get there, making their story not only believable, but inspirational as well.



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