Every once in a while, a film comes around capable of pulling at your heartstrings without seeming too feminine, and creating a fantastical world without seeming too nerdy. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is like that, plus a giant mindfuck.
It features Jim Carrey in a serious role as Joel Barish, a lovesick thirty-something in a desperate attempt to move past his ex-girlfriend Clementine, played by Kate Winslet. He finds an agency, run by Tom Wilkinson, with the ability to erase certain parts of the memory, specifically those containing crazy ex-girlfriends. With help from Elijah Wood, Kirsten Dunst, and Mark Ruffalo, the company helps Joel erase Clementine and hopefully move on with his life.
First and foremost, the names in the above intro should immediately draw attention to this film. If someone told you there was a movie containing Frodo, Mary Jane Watson, Ace Ventura, and swagtastic Mark Ruffalo, you know you’d wanna see it. And this ensemble delivers brilliantly. Some people dislike Carrey’s serious roles, which is understandable. It’s hard, after all, to look past this image.
But Carrey delivers in expert fashion. He is relatable and believable, and the film benefits greatly from this. Charlie Kaufman’s script contains some questionable lines, and anyone other than Carrey wouldn’t be able to pull them off. I mean, can you imagine Nicolas Cage saying, “Sand is overrated. It’s just tiny little rocks”?
The character Carrey portrays matches perfectly with Winslet’s Clementine. She is perfectly obnoxious and conceited; we hate her, and we love her all at the same time. The rest of the cast is excellent as well. They emulate various states in a relationship, all of which mirror Joel and Clementine at one point or another. Their roles are clearly defined and because of this the film excels. And sure, it’s nice seeing Kirsten Dunst jumping on a bed.
What stands out the most, however, is the incredible cinematography. Director Michel Gondry creates a world entirely his own, whether it be on a beach in Montauk or in Joel Barish’s bedroom. Everything is connected on multiple levels, which constructs an almost dream-like setting. Specifically, the scenes which are Joel’s recalled memories contain an almost astral quality. We know the scenes are from the past, but they seem as though they could happen in the future. These innovative sequences are truly special, and make the film as great as it is.
It’s easy to understand why this film was on the top of many people’s Best of the Decade lists. Its visionary nature combined with its superb acting make this a must-see for any film buff. It is absolutely a modern classic, and deserves to be seen as such. Enjoy this film, and remember: You will never, ever be as cool as Mark Ruffalo.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever Clementine has a different hair style/color
Take a Drink: whenever Elijah Wood is on screen, just because he’s so silly
Take a Shot: at the jumping on the bed scene
Finish your Drink: if Mark Ruffalo inspires you to have crazy bed head.