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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - Preview & US reaction



Preview by: Jack Foley

HAVING returned to his comedy roots for last year’s 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 and Adaptation.

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 film’s conept - what if you received a card in the mail that stated you had been erased from someone’s memory, and that you should no longer attempt to contact them.

Around the same time, Gondry read Charlie Kaufman’s original screenplay for Being John Malkovich and sought to make a movie with the writer.

Their work, whether it’s Gondry’s much-admired music videos, or Kaufman’s 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 – is tragic."
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 didn’t 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 actually are."

 

US reaction

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 lot’.

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 it’.

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 Gondry’s angular and intelligent romantic comedy isn’t entirely consistent. Even as you laugh, it’s 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’.

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