Classic Movie Review: The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Posted: August 24, 2013 in Romance
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Joel Barish’s (Jim Carrey) relationship with Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet) has hit a rough patch, they are on the verge of breaking up, when he tries to reconcile with her at the bookstore where Clementine works, and she  acts like she has no memory of Joel at all.  It’s no act.  Joel learns Clem has had a procedure done with Dr. Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkenson) to have all memories of Joel erased from her mind.  Joel is devastated, will he reciprocate?  Does he really want no memory of Clementine, a girl he’s spent such a long time getting to know and love?

This is an interesting movie, it’s not a romantic comedy, it’s not very romantic, and it’s not a comedy in the conventional sense, but I like it, because it’s illustrative and very realistic about what can go wrong in a relationship.  Joel is quiet and introspective, Clementine is boisterous, outgoing, spur of the moment, and they find something in each other that fills the voids they have in themselves.  But later, what drew them to each other, now repels them from each other. It’s compelling to see the peaks and valleys of this relationship. The central question posed by this movie is, have you had a relationship so bad that you would actually have it surgically removed from your memory?  The answer for me is happily no, but it’s still an intriguing question to ponder.  I would call this movie realistic but hopeful and I truly wish more movies that talk about relationships would adopt this point of view.

I also like how fully developed each of the characters are, in most movies, a lot of the secondary characters have story lines that just melt away or disappear entirely.  These secondary characters not only have their own subplot, but contribute mightily to the denouement of the main plot.  Jim Carrey is extraordinary in this movie, this and The Truman Show are my favorite movies of his, he shows a definite talent for a serious movie role, he still resorts to some comedic crutches of making faces, and modulating his voice in silly way, but thankfully he reigns in those impulses, and delivers a subdued, low-key performance.  Kate Winslet is amazing in this movie, her character is a car wreck, a hot mess, but Winslet brings out some spark in this needy character that makes her loveable and vulnerable.  It’s a hell of a good performance.  Titanic  is not a movie I would ever watch again, but her performance in that movie is spectacular.  She got a lot less fanfare for this role, but it was one of her best performances.  Tom Wilkenson is brilliant as a doctor with a lot of power, who knows how to wield it.

The writing is superb, combining romance, drama, and elements of science fiction and it all could have blown up, but it did not.   Everything works well, and the science fiction element improves an already strong relationship movie.  The pacing is good, no slow spots, the movie just moves along nicely. The  Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind is a quote from a poem from Alexander Pope, if you needed to know were the title came from.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  Let the sunshine in.

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