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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

April 9, 2010

9/10 Total Recalls

A front-runner for the most original movie of the past decade.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is about a guy and girl whose relationship is on the outs in a bad way. Rather than just be sad and let time heal old woulds, the girl decides to have her ex completely erased from her memory thanks to a technology that doesn’t actually exist so that all wounds are healed in no time at all. Lo and behold, the guy catches wind of this, he’s not too happy about it, so he decides to get the same procedure done but finds himself immediately falling back in love with her as he revisits all the highs and lows of their relationship that are stored up in his brain before they’re erased for good.

In a nutshell, this is movie’s pretty damn brilliant on every front.

The script is by Charlie Kaufman. I’ve already gone off on how Charlie Kaufman is more or less the second coming when it comes to screenwriting, so I’ll just leave it at that in regards to worshipping at the Church of Charlie. But the thing he does best here that stands out from the things he always does so darn well is that his script is refreshingly honest.

Joel and Clementine‘s relationship isn’t exactly pretty, it’s actually pretty sad at times – hence the whole “amnesia by choice” thing – and that’s something I don’t see enough of in movies…ever. For every great memory of Joel and Clementine there’s an equally painful one, one that I sure as hell wouldn’t want hanging over me, but it’s important to have that hurt there because this isn’t a cookie-cutter, happy ending kinda movie in any way shape or form; it’s a movie about real people coping with real issues and real emotions. They’re flawed apart and they’re flawed together, but so is everybody, and that’s why it works.

Now, I’ve never had a bad break-up or anything, but I’m gonna go out a limb here and assume that everyone at some point in their lives wishes they could just hit a “Delete” button and completely erase a painful or regrettable someone or something from their mind rather than actually have to live with it. Eternal Sunshine plays up that fantasy in a big way and shows us that no matter how much your mind might tell you otherwise, that organ ain’t got jack on the heart. Deep stuff right there.

It’s a very funny script, too. That line with David Cross trying to build his birdhouse always gets me.

And it’s directed by Michel Gondry – another guy I’ve already gone off on. Nonetheless, this is arguably Gondry at the height of his game (wasn’t a big fan of Science of Sleep) and there are few people out there who could complement a wild, disjointed script like this that primarily takes place inside the main character’s subconscious. The visuals are astounding, there’s hardly any use of CG special effects and it’s just one of those movies you watch and wonder, “How the hell did they do that?” The way Gondry brings his imagination to life through Joel is one of the many reasons he’s the real deal and he makes this movie look as amazing as it reads.

The cast is also great and they all have great, complex characters to work with. Jim Carrey is spot-on as the quiet, endearing Joel (it’s also the last good serious role he’s been in), Kate Winslet is wonderful as quirky, eccentric Clementine (shocker), and they’re both supported by a solid cast of A- & B-listers. Except for Elijah Wood, he bothers me.

Man, I’ve seen this movie oodles of times, oodles I tell ya’, and it’s freakin’ phenomenal with every go-around. It sucks that there aren’t more writers, directors and actors out there who take risks on totally out-there movies like this that have something new to say on a universal topic we can all relate to in some way. I could make this review a lot longer than it already is, but truth be told, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a movie that can’t be done justice in a 700-word rant from a movie blogger. See this movie, see it again, it’s almost a 10 and it’s one of the best of the past decade.

And, God, do I love that Beck song that plays at the end. Beck is the freakin’ man.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. April 9, 2010 1:29 am

    I have a feeling we’re supposed to be bothered by Wood, I’ve never been as freaked out by him. Eternal Sunshine easily places in the top three scripts of the decade. It’s such an excellent film throughout, although my mind always goes to that first trip (in the film, not chronologically) to Montauk. Kate’s effervescence and Carey’s discomfort is just brilliant. Nice review.

  2. April 9, 2010 8:39 am


    A brilliant flick like this earns a nine???? What the hell does a movie have to do to land a ten on this effin’ blog??

    (Great review by the way, pardon my chiding of your scoring system).

    • April 9, 2010 8:51 am

      hahaha, thanks, man. it’s a high nine. a 9.9 if you will. was a hard call to make all the same.

      • April 10, 2010 1:23 pm

        Marvelous review. One of my favorite romantic movie of all time and I do agree with Mad, it does deserve a 10 😉 Really a shame Jim Carrey did not get any kind of recognition for this.

  3. April 9, 2010 10:56 am

    I feel like a retard after reading your review about this movie…. I have never heard of it. Sounds interest and i might have to pick this one up this weekend. Thanks for the great review.

    • April 9, 2010 10:58 am

      Thank, man. Check this out asap. Great stuff.

    • April 9, 2010 11:18 am

      @ Movie Porch… Don’t feel bad, nobody can see them all. I actually feel a bit of jealousy right now, since I wish I could go back and watch it again for the first time.

      I must say though – put this movie on the very tippy-top of your watch list. You won’t be sorry!

    • Darren permalink
      April 10, 2010 5:06 am

      It also doesn’t help that, despite being absolutely excellent, it snuck in under the radar. Sure, Kate Winslet got an Oscar nomination, but she always gets an Oscar nomination. It didn’t land deserved Best Picture or Best Actor nominations, which would have really pushed it into the mainstream. Thankfully it’s become a bit of a cult classic – it’s one of those movies I initially encountered through likeminded film nerds.

    • April 10, 2010 1:20 pm

      You are a lucky one Movie Porch. You get to discover a great movie so enjoy!

  4. April 9, 2010 1:04 pm

    I don’t like this film. I don’t think it’s bad, but I don’t like it. I think the problem for me is that Kaufman’s writing is so tight that each scene has to mean something or give us some hint of what is happening that it ruins the artistic expression for me. When Carry comments about the missing pages in his book it could just be this odd moment but instead it has to all mean something specifically and it never feels that open to me.

    Yea, that’s a really odd criticism but it just endlessly bugs me that every moment was treated more like a piece in a puzzle instead of actually focusing more on the characters and the drama. It felt more like a highly intellectual approach to emotional material.

    And don’t get me started with the whole drama meets handheld thing. I hate it when you have these still moments in films but the camera is moving it’s just irritating and unnecessary. Why? Why?

    Ahh, I digress. It’s not a bad film, except for Dunst, but I have so many issues with it.

  5. April 9, 2010 1:44 pm

    I had been told for over five years by my parents that this movie was one of the worst they had ever seen. But when I watched it over the summer, I actually really liked it! It’s the kind of movie that I feel like I could watch a million times and still be finding new and interesting things.

  6. April 9, 2010 4:36 pm

    One of my top five films ever. Solid review!

  7. April 9, 2010 5:57 pm

    Its just one of those great movies, that will be a classic, if not already one, for the future. Great Review man!

  8. April 9, 2010 6:04 pm

    Liking your taste more and more these days.

    Best part is the end when they just say, “okay” to each other. Really touching.

  9. April 10, 2010 11:07 pm

    Sad to see Jim Carrey not make a good film like this one since, I agree with your 9/10 verdict, great job all around.


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