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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Cast: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Wilkinson, and Elijah Wood
Director: Michel Gondry
Writer: Charlie Kaufman
Country: USA
Length: 108 min
MPAA Rating: R (language, some drug and sexual content)
Released: 2004

Joel and Clementine in love
Weíve all been through it before, and we all know how painful it is: the loss of love. Thatís the premise of Charlie Kaufmanís newest fantasy filled movie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The story is about two people who are polar opposites. Thereís Joel (Carrey), a mild mannered man who quietly meanders through life hiding his eyes when people happen to look at him, and Clementine (Winslet), a vivaciously wild young woman who takes it upon herself to set Joel free from his self imposed normalcy. What happens to them is what happens to so many of us; the charm wears thin, arguments begin, and the romance wanes toward its inevitable conclusion. Sad and painful as that may be, these romances that we all strive for build character and teach us valuable lessons. That is, if we are wise enough to learn them.

Yet, at Lacuna Incorporated, Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Wilkinson) promises an end to all the suffering by systematically erasing all memories of the significant other who causes them. Clementine decides that the memory of Joel is too much to bear and has the procedure performed on her. When a note is mistakenly sent to Joel in order to inform him not to mention himself to her because it might be detrimental to the treatment,
The Dr. and the techs
he understands why her supposed cruelty when he tries to talk to her is actually not cruelty at all, but forgetfulness. Joel, in a fit of passion, decides to have the procedure done to him as well, thinking that that would be a great way to get back at her. Itís a foolish notion, but who among us can say that we have always behaved rationally at the end of a love affair? During the procedure, Joel realizes that he doesnít wish to lose his memories of Clementine, and against all odds, tries to escape the erasure in progress.

Iím having a hard time figuring out what to say about this film. It is so completely different from any other film out there; itís impossible to find anything to compare it to. If youíre a fan of Charlie Kaufman, you probably know what I mean. He broke cinema molds with his unique comedies Being John Malkovich and Human Nature, then made new molds calling them his own with Adaptation. Just like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, they are worlds apart from any other films out there, including each other. Yet, this film in particular surpasses even his previous attempts. In large part due to Michel Gondry, who also directed Human Nature. Gondry is a veteran music video director, who has made some of the best videos out there. His knowledge of timing and inventive impressionism makes many of the erasure scenes unforgettable. It will be extremely disappointing if he doesnít get nominated for an Oscar or Golden Globe.

The babysitter
Jim Carrey proves once again that he is more than just a clown; he is a gifted actor. In this film, he doesnít give into his patented manic and zany persona, but plays a part that is true to many everymen. It is easy to feel pity for Joel, even though he asked for what he got. His realization that losing memories of Clementine will take away from who he is as a human being is poignant and equally sad, though because Carrey is so good at what he does, there is humor in the sadness as well; just like in life. Kate Winslet does an equally impressive job with her role as the wild girl than no man could resist. Both of these great performers are at the top of their respective games here.

While viewing the film, I noticed about twenty people get up and leave in the middle of it. I can only assume that they were Ace Ventura fans. Itís too bad that some people didnít want to give this film a chance because of its lack of wackiness. After the movie was over, I hung around at the exit just to get a feel of the overall reaction to the film. I found that it was pretty evenly divided with a large number in awe and an equal amount of people feeling like
Hey! Howíd we get here?
they just wasted their evening. I actually anticipated this after about a half an hour of the film. The same thing happened when I went to see Paul Thomas Andersonís wonderful love story Punch Drunk Love. The people who went to see the film because they were solely Sandler fans, left the theater feeling cheated, and even angry. It shows that the writer is receiving more recognition nowadays, and that makes me happier than a 14-year old boy in a brothel. Maybe, just maybe, a trend is happening that will undo the damage that CGI has done to the film industry. There should be a healthy balance with pizzazz and substance; there is no better poster child for that than this film.

Above all, what makes Eternal Sunshine such a wonderful film is its message. Love is what is most important in life, without it, we may as well not even exist. Joel figures that out during his treatment and tries everything he can to hold onto his darling Clementine, and whether or not he achieves his goal is unimportant, because the real achievement is that he learns that love is all we need, and more often than not, all we desire.

Thank you Mr. Kaufman.