Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Elijah Wood, Kirsten Dunst Written By: Charlie Kaufman Directed By: Michel Gondry
I don’t remember who told me to see this movie, but I’ve been meaning to get around to it for a while. Now that I have seen it, I wish I had done so much sooner.
I have a love hate relationship with writer Charlie Kaufman. I love him for Being John Malkovich because of it’s absurd but simple storyline, it’s a one of a kind movie that I have absolutely loved. I hate him for Adaptation because of it’s absurd for the sake of being absurd storyline that is so complex it left me scratching my head out of frustration.
Eternal Sunshine falls somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. It’s absurd, high concept weirdness, but it just manages to straddle the abyss where Adaptation resides. The story is simple. Joel Barrish (Carrey) has just come out of an intense long-term relationship with Clementine Kruczynski (Winslet). The relationship did not end well, but Joel finds he was so in love with Clementine that he is unable to move on. He muses about getting back together with his previous girlfriend, because after all she did love him. Soon Joel discovers that Clementine has visited undergone a procedure to have him completely erased from her memory. Unable to cope, he decides to have the procedure himself. He visits the office of Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson), whose office looks just like any other doctors’ office, except that Dr. Mierzwiak specializes in erasing memories. Despite it being his busy season (around Valentine’s Day) the doctor fits Joel into his schedule.
The majority of the movie focuses on Joel reliving his memories as they are deleted from his mind (a procedure that is done using some sophisticated computers interfaced with his brain while he sleeps at home in his own bed). Joel soon discovers that losing the memory of Clementine is nearly as much of a loss as losing Clementine herself, and begins to fight against the procedure to retain the memories of his love. Playing the role of villains are a the two technicians running the computers, one of whom, we learn, also performed the procedure on Clementine and fell in love with her in the process.
Kaufman’s story is essentially an elaboration of a single line from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem In Memoriam, 1850. “Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.” This is clearly Kaufman’s opinion, and if it isn’t your now, it just might be after seeing the movie.
The movies demands your utmost attention and there is a good chance you will be very confused for the first hour. Luckily the second half of the movie clears the fog nicely and you are able to appreciate the brilliance of the story. Jim Carrey gives a superb, understated performance in this dramatic role, and Winslet is charming as ever, though I couldn’t get used her hearing her speak with an American accent. The rest of the cast is adequate, but honestly aren’t given a lot to do.
I don’t think it’s as good as Being John Malkovich, but it is more than worthy of a rental.