The famed screenwriter of “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation” unravels his most accessible and yet twisted gem with “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” While not as self-reflexive as his previous two efforts, ‘Eternal Sunshine’ offers great commentary on relationships for both men and women.
Jim Carrey (“Liar, Liar”) plays Joel Barish, a lonely and quiet type whose life is in need of excitement. Kate Winslet (“Titanic”) is Clementine, an oddball and free spirit who sets Joel free.
When Joel and Clementine meet unbearable obstacles in their relationship, they decide to consider a new option: having their memories erased. Elijah Wood (“Lord of the Rings”) and Kirsten Dunst (“Spider Man”) are two of the technicians assigned to erase their memories.
The battle to keep, change, hide and confront memories to better their future, past and present makes this labyrinth dizzying yet gratifying. Anyone who has been in an involved relationship that unexpectedly meets hard times can identify with this film. Of course, the initial reaction in these relationships is to wish they never occurred. However, how can we grow without remembering important people and loves in life? Kaufman attacks this dilemma and follows through with great insight.
Through extremely close shots in the hand-held camera work, we are intimately involved in both Joel and Clementine’s plots. Even though they are unlikable characters at times, we feel so close to them because in fact, we are close to them.
If you are expecting the goofball Carrey that we know all too well, scenes taking us back to his childhood will satisfy that thirst. However, most of the movie lets us in on his surprising ability to work with drama (as was the case in “The Truman Show” and “The Majestic”).
The romantic story that is the center of the plot keeps the movie together marvelously. The fast-paced, non-linear plot unfolds awkwardly at times but inevitably pays off in the end.
Winslet proves herself as one of the top actresses worldwide in doing a beautiful, charismatic and spirited job working with Carrey. Other actors such as Wood, Dunst, David Cross and Mark Ruffalo are written into one-dimensional frameworks that make them tertiary characters at most.
Besides the overuse of hand-held cameras, ‘Eternal Sunshine’ poorly resolves the climax of the film. In the process of erasing his memory, Joel’s subconscious resists to hold on to Clementine. After battling and slowly losing, Clementine (through Joel’s mind) tells him to remember Montauk. The resolution is blunt, simple and unlike the talented screenwriter Hollywood has in Kaufman.
This film is sincerely brilliant in appealing to the young and old, as well as both men and women. Even though ‘Eternal Sunshine’ isn’t Kaufman’s magnum opus, the Academy gave him the nod for best original screenplay and nominated Winslet for best actress.