Friday, January 22, 2016

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

This review is Spoiler-free.

Melancholy, loner boy meets dazzling, free-spirit girl in this strange, strangely poignant science fiction romance, that cinematically encapsulates the old adage, "it's better to have loved and lost than to ever have loved at all" in a whole new way. Penned by Charlie Kaufman and starring an unexpectedly bright line-up of supporting stars -- , , , and -- but most importantly as it's two leads, the classy and elegant Brit as the crazy and confident American girl with no filter, and the king of wacky, goofball comedy himself, , as the reserved nice guy who falls for her.

Both play against type, and it's a big part of the movie's brilliance.

I absolutely adore Jim Carrey in dramatic roles. They never seem to waste his comic abilities or extremely expressive facial expressions, yet, they always have a truly great, deep and emotional performance attached to them. In this film I particularly liked how strongly you could sense Joel's head-over-heels fall for Clementine. His introverted, insecure character is very easy to relate to, and is fantastically melancholy, but we also are cleverly shown us the humor of his character and situation as well. He internalizes a lot, but we get to know him immediately through narration.

Kate Winslet is a delight. Her character of Clementine was perfect for her, not that you would ever expect it to be, and I was tickled pink (and blue and orange) to watch her completely own such a neat, wild character. She's not quite as much against type as Carrey, as she has quite the knack for passionate characters, but Clementine still breaks the mold in other ways. She has a certain quality of looseness, and casualness, but mostly, she's loud -- in a sometimes brazen way, but more often quite dazzling and alluring, and Winslet was the perfect choice to hit that exact balance -- if not the only person who even could.

Top two things I love about this movie: Pictured.

I was surprised to see so many familiar faces in the supporting roles, and even more surprised at how important they all were to the plot. None of them needed to be very likable and I enjoyed being allowed to dislike Kirsten Dunst, but the biggest surprise came when I found that I really liked her character by the end. Elijah Wood seems quite suited to being a brainless kid, Mark Ruffalo was super weird in a weirdly not-obvious way, and of course Tom Wilkinson was great, as he always is.

I'm keeping things very spoiler-free here because I enjoyed not knowing anything going in, but after twenty minutes of straight-up romance, things get very sci-fi very fast. And then they stay there. I enjoyed the plot all-around, but found the extreme way the sci-fi was portrayed to be slightly overwhelming, and a little more slightly distracting. It seemed like too much time was spent bouncing around and being strange and trippy and not quite enough was spent in the more deeply mellow style of the first twenty minutes. Not to say I think it was wrong one way and right the other, but I did prefer and enjoy the one way that less time was spent on more.

First of all -- Mark Ruffalo's hair. Second of all -- nothing else matters right now.

The science fiction element allowed for a few intriguing questions to be posed, and then for a nice change from the typical sci-fi mantra, answers are given. Certainly the movie does have plenty of interesting tidbits and details that one could meditate on, but from my perspective, the film's main theme was quite central and very important. It felt like the movie's sole existence was meant to make that point, and it was a point made very well -- and it was a good point to make. After thinking about it, I want to take it a little deeper than the film did, but the mere fact that it made me consider what I thought is enough to clue me in to how much I liked it. This is why I love science fiction.

Top two things that make this movie great: Jim Carrey being deep, and science fiction making it possible.

Eventually I got my wish of more unencumbered time with the protagonists when the film's closing section reverts back to the smoother tone of the beginning and gives us that wonderfully simple, earnest ending that is satisfyingly both artistic and romantic. Some of the middle I found unnecessary, and I'll always prefer the more reality-based moments of nuanced performances to other things the film offers, but wrapped up as a whole, the result has a unique and off-kilter charm that cannot be denied. Enhanced simply by the existence of science fiction element, Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet shine with spectacularly entertaining chemistry, and deftly portray the movie's thoughtful drama about relationships, and love and loss, and the supposed idea of the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind.


  1. I've been wanting to see this for years, but it just hasn't happened yet. I didn't realize/forgot that Mark Ruffalo is in it, though -- that's upped my desire to see it :-)

    1. It's definitely a worthy watch! I didn't know he was in it either and it took me a while to recognize him what with the hair and the glasses. :P