Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Michel Gondry

BY James KeastPublished Oct 1, 2004

Now is finally the time for this brilliant merging of talent to find the appreciative audience that was its due but not its fate upon its initial theatrical release. And like other successful films based on scripts by Charlie Kaufman — his collaborations with director Spike Jonze, Being John Malkovich and Adaptation — Eternal Sunshine benefits immensely from repeat viewing, when the onion-y layers of his storytelling can be truly savoured. Eternal Sunshine opens with a love story turned sour between Joel (a truly not annoying Jim Carrey) and Clementine (a much welcome return by Kate Winslet), who've suffered through two years of relationship struggle and bitterness only to arrive at the familiar conclusion of the romantically destroyed: I would have been better off without them in my life at all. When Joel discovers that Clementine has had him erased from her memory completely, he decides to do the same and goes to the inventor of the process, Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson). That night, two technicians and a girlfriend (Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, Kirsten Dunst) arrive at Joel's apartment while he sleeps to remove Clementine once and for all. But somewhere on the backtrack between "I hate you" and the first blush of attraction, Joel decides that love — for all its craziness — isn't something to turn your back on, and thus begins an incredible surrealistic chase scene through Joel's memory as he tries to save a small piece of Clementine for himself. Acclaimed video director Gondry gets a second swing at a Kaufman script here, having whiffed on Human Nature, and it's a towering shot of confident and imaginative filmmaking. His ability to make an insane journey of the mind both subconscious and coherent is what hangs Eternal Sunshine together, giving Carrey and Winslet the freedom to explore the range of human relationships in most unusual ways. As DVDs go, this is fairly typical studio fare: the "making of" is perfunctory, and while there are moments of delight in an interview between Carrey and Gondry, it's by no means deep. Deleted scenes and the complete Lacuna infomercial are good for the geeks, but a co-commentary between Gondry and Kaufman is surprisingly snooze-worthy. But the film? Worth watching again, right now. Plus: Polyphonic Spree video. (Focus/Alliance Atlantis)

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