a critiQal film review Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Plot: Joel (Carrey) meets Clementine (Winslet). When they go through a bad breakup, Clementine decides to rid herself of Joel by having him erased from her mind in a new medical procedure. When Joel finds out, he decides to go through the same process. But, when Joel changes his mind partway through, will he be able to remember Clementine, or lose her forever?

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  • ...showcases a fresh side of Jim Carrey - and it's a side worth seeing.

So, Jim Carrey has started to fall into a pattern. He comes out with a couple of huge comedy films (Liar Liar (1997), Bruce Almighty (2003), etc.), then delves into a more “serious” role. Last time, he doubled up with Man on the Moon and The Majestic. This time around, it looks like he’s only doing one “serious” film: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, before going back into comedy with A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) (whoa, Jim, I see another trend starting here – you’re movie titles keep getting longer! What happened to the short titles – two words is good enough, ya know).

So, after a highly applauded performance and a dismal bomb last time around (Man on the Moon and The Majestic, respectively), which way would his “serious” performance in Eternal Sunshine lean?

Shockingly, Jim Carrey pulls off a wonderful performance in this serious role. Kate Winslet (ol’ Titanic (1997) girl) actually takes on his usual role, delivering a shockingly good performance in her role as well. The two of them work very well together, which is probably most amazing. Before Eternal Sunshine, if someone had mentioned Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey were teaming up for a film, the average viewer would have been stunned. Luckily, they were both able to break out of their regular personas and deliver great performances in this film.

Elijah “Hobbit” Wood continues to stink up the screen, unfortunately. You would think the The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) and it’s sequels would have brought out a better actor in him for future films to capitalize on, but it didn’t. He was able to struggle through that trilogy, even improving somewhat throughout the series, but in Eternal Sunshine he has again fallen to his sub-par acting level.

Mark Ruffalo and Kirsten Dunst also turn in decent performances, making Elijah Wood’s abysmal showing stand out even more.

The plot takes a bit from an old Schwarzenegger film (Total Recall (1990)), and ends up expanding that small section into a film of it’s own right. In Total Recall (1990), Schwarzenegger’s character Quaid goes on an adventure that is implanted in his mind.

In Eternal Sunshine, instead of implanting something in the mind, the technology they showcase actually removes all memories of someone. It’s an interesting concept, and most people will be able to sympathize somewhat with the main characters right from the start. After all, who among us hasn’t gone through a bad breakup and, even for a second, wished they could just remove all memories of their ex?

Not content to stop there, Eternal Sunshine actually expands on the idea. Many films before have showcased that changing time doesn’t really change anything, as people are doomed to repeat themselves. This theme has been showcased in many different films, mostly to the main character’s misfortune.

This time around, they are turning “doomed to repeat ourselves” into not such a bad thing. It seems, the movie says, that we can’t help who we fall in love with, and erasing our memories won’t change that. Really, you could say the movie speaks to the true power of love.

The way Eternal Sunshine is put together instantly draws the viewer in. It’s a bit disjointed at first, as we come into the story somewhat in the middle, but it hooks the viewer’s attention. Once the viewer begins to realize the story doesn’t start where they think it did, it’s an instant draw, because the viewer will want to know how the film really started.

Pulp Fiction (1994) used this to an extreme, and many movies have tried to go the same route since, but this is one of the few where that route actually makes sense. The movie would have been somewhat boring if we had been led step-by-step through it, so switching things around actually greatly improves the film.

Having said all that, it’s obvious I liked Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Heather, on the the other hand, didn’t. Maybe it’s just one of those films where you either like it a lot or you hate it.

Either way, you’ll be impressed by Jim Carrey’s serious turn. If you liked seeing Adam Sandler taking a serious turn in Punch-Drunk Love (2002), you’ll probably enjoy this film.

However, if you see Adam Sandler or Jim Carrey’s name in a film and expect to laugh, then neither of these films are for you.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind beats out Punch-Drunk Love (2002) in my book, but they both showcase a somewhat hidden side of a comedian – and both Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler have really stepped up to the plate.

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