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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Reviewed by Ben)

Bathing in the sink, cars falling from the sky, stealing a house, Mark Ruffalo and Kirsten Dunst dancing around in their underwear as a man - hooked up to all kinds of wires - lies on the floor...

Sorry, what did I just watch? And what makes a vision as bizarre as director Michael Condry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind succeed as well as this movie does?

It’s hard to put your finger on where this film goes right, even as you realize you can’t take your eyes off the screen. In the hands of a less capable team, Eternal Sunshine would have been a cheesy mindbender that just couldn’t pull off the seriousness buried in a seemingly silly plot. In this dark comedy, however, sci-and romance go together like you never thought they would.

The movie is about something we all we wish we could do at one point in our life. Joel (Jim Carrey) is a man getting out of a serious relationship and discovers that his ex-lover, a colorful woman by the name of Clementine Kruckynski (Kate Winslet), has had a medical procedure which removed all memories of him.

Upon hearing this, he sets out to do the same.  But once he relives the memories, he changes his mind. The film is centrally about him running through his mind as if it were a maze, trying to get away from the doctors trying to get a hold of him to complete the memory-removal procedure. Unfortunately, he has to watch as scientists remove the priceless memories of his lover (who joins him on the race through his mind).

Those scientists play a unique role in this imaginative movie. For while this small group of friends who work in their office, they are completely unaware of the drama going on as Joel and Clementine - within their own reality - try to run away in hope they can call the whole memory-wipe off.

So what is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind exactly? A sci-fi mind bender? Maybe. A very dark comedy? A strong case could be made. I however, think that the sci-fi and laughs are there to provide a foil to a serious human story. The visuals are truly unique, but they play a part in one finest dramas I have ever seen, rather than take over the film.  

The movie is perfectly written, directed with impressive detail, and charmingly acted by some great performers. If it sounds like a “different for the sake of different” movie, know that watching Eternal Sunshine is a great experience for even the most traditional of cinemagoers.

The standouts in the cast include the two stars: an electric Kate Winslet and a much more toned-down Jim Carrey than one is used to. The medical staff include Tom Wilkinson as the older, thoughtful boss with a secret, Mark Ruffalo as the charming operator, Kirsten Dunst (who is especially good) as his girlfriend (the receptionist at the company), and Elijah Wood as a geeky intern who uses his knowledge about Clementine’s mind to replace Joel in her life. Their ensemble work is masterful.

It has a very complicated story and is certainly a movie one has to give their full attention to. There are a couple sex scenes, some drug references, and a whole lot of swearing, so I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. However, once you get around to watching this magnificent film, your view on film (and reality) will forever be altered.

Dad replies: I share Ben’s enthusiasm for this film, especially how they take elements of effects-driven science fiction and comedy and work them into a romantic drama with genuine heart.  This was one of the first pictures in which Jim Carrey (where did he go, by the way?) demonstrated his ability to turn in a heartfelt, powerful performance, rather than mug for the camera or explode into flames.  Truman Show placed him in a similarly unreal situation, but failed to invoke the core element that makes Eternal Sunshine such a triumph: a deep understanding that as much as love can hurt, it is the only part of the human condition that can not (and should never) be erased.

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