Preview by: Jack Foley
HAVING returned to his comedy roots for last years Bruce
Almighty, Jim Carrey returns to more challenging material
in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, headlining a talented
ensemble for a new film from Charlie Kaufman - the brains behind
Being John Malkovich
Carrey plays Joel, an unassuming, everyday guy, who is stunned
to discover that his girlfriend, Clementine (Kate Winslet), has
had her memories of their tumultuous relationship erased.
Out of desperation, he contacts the inventor of the process,
Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson), to have Clementine removed
from his own memory, but as these memories progressively disappear,
he begins to rediscover his love for Clementine, and, from deep
within the recesses of his brain, attempts to escape the procedure.
But as Joel becomes increasingly desperate to cling on to his
memory, Dr. Mierzwiak and his crew (comprised of Kirsten Dunst,
Mark Ruffalo and Elijah Wood) chase him through the maze of his
mind, while also coming to terms with their own relationship difficulties.
The idea behind the movie first surfaced several years ago, when
director, Michel Gondry, was having dinner with a friend, the
artist Pierre Bismuth, in London.
Bismuth proposed the provocative idea which forms the films
conept - what if you received a card in the mail that stated you
had been erased from someones memory, and that you should
no longer attempt to contact them.
Around the same time, Gondry read Charlie Kaufmans original
screenplay for Being John Malkovich and sought to make a movie
with the writer.
Their work, whether its Gondrys much-admired music
videos, or Kaufmans reality-bending screenplays, tends to
turn convention inside out, so it is little wonder to find the
movie is a challenging, moving and funny experience.
"His writing inspires me," remarks Gondry. "Soon,
I had a completely different idea of how I should do this movie.
It became about memories. How we are our memories, and how our
memories affect our lives. Losing them before you die
Kaufman adds: "Michel came to me with this idea. He asked
me if I wanted to develop it into a screenplay and said, Do
you want to try to work on the pitch? I like Michel and
I liked his videos
but first it had to be written, which
took me three years."
The result, however, appears to have been worth it, for while
the film didnt perform overly well at the US box office
(where it entered the charts at number five), it has helped to
earn Carrey and co another rave set of notices.
For, as producer, Anthony Bregman states: "You see why people
are attracted to each other, why people fall in love, why people
fall out of love, why you get sucked into the mundaneness of a
relationship after a long time. Some of this is hilarious, and
some of it is painful; you see how frail and unstable relationships
Kicking off this round-up is Variety, which glowed in
its praise for the film, concluding that if films about
coping with memory loss and/or reverse-order storytelling now
constitute a mini-genre, then pic is arguably the best of the
The Detroit News, meanwhile, stated that it is dizzying,
dazzling, smart and, most importantly, honestly struggling with
the variables of love, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is
a mesmerizing mind game that still manages to find perfect pitch
while pulling heartstrings.
Hollywood Reporter wrote that it is a bold and venturesome
trip down memory lane as only writer Charlie Kaufman could imagine
While the Washington Post described it as the perfect
movie about love's inevitable imperfections.
Entertainment Weekly opined that it may be
the first movie I've seen that bends your brain and breaks your
heart at the same time.
Similarly impressed was the Globe and Mail, which wrote
that the twists here are the rare sort that seem both narratively
surprising and emotionally engaging, particularly the one that
boxes us into this interrogative corner.
While the Chicago Sun-Times wrote that despite jumping
through the deliberately disorienting hoops of its story, Eternal
Sunshine has an emotional center, and that's what makes it work.
There were some negative comments, however, with the Detroit
Free Press stating that what's lacking is what the movie
is ostensibly about: the heart that so often leads us to fall
in love with the wrong people at the wrong time.
And Screen Daily noting that even if the script
had been more accessible, it's doubtful whether its ultra-high
concept will connect with general audiences.
But the New York Times seems to have got the measure of
it, stating that Michael Gondrys angular and intelligent
romantic comedy isnt entirely consistent. Even as you laugh,
its a movie you admire more than love.
While the final word goes to the Los Angeles Times, which
concluded that tThe hiccups and eccentricities that define
a Kaufman script - the anguished neuroses, the narrative kinks
- are firmly in the service of a touching love story, not the
other way around.