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"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"

Directed by Michael Gondry.
Written by Charlie Kaufman. 
Starring Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst and Tom Wilkinson. 
Release Year:  2004 
Review Date:  4/11/04 


Ahh, the's good to be back!

So, I took in the latest effort from that wacko of a writer, Charlie Kaufman, the kind soul that gave us such wacko classics as "Being John Malkovich" and "Adaptation.".  This time, in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", it's a romantic tale that skips around so much that my head is still spinning...and worse, I am still unearthing details of just how many times Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) had his memory wiped, since I thought it was just once.

Here's the deal:  Joel had a great relationship with this girl named Clementine (Kate Winslet), but as things go, their love soured and they broke up.  Now, Clementine wanted to get over Joel quick, so she went to a company in New York that performs brainwashing of a permanent variety--they wipe your memory of various people, places or pets by collecting information to map out what parts of your brain need to be formatted, kinda like a hard drive.  She had the wipe done...and then saw Joel at a bookstore, and didn't recognize him.

Confused by this, Joel finds out about the brainwashers, led by a pioneer named Howard (Tom Wilkinson), and Joel decides to have Clementine wiped from his memory.  We spend the rest of the movie going through Joel's memories of all things Clementine...but, as we move from the present through the past, Joel realizes that he doesn't want to lose all of the memories of the happy times, but is it too late?

Bouncing between Joel's past with Clementine, memories he had without her, and the brainwashing staff that is supposed to be focused on cleaning Joel's head, "Eternal Sunshine..." has a lot of work to do in just two hours, and it is a mixed bag.  The performances can't be questioned, though.  Carrey is amazing once again as Joel, mixing elements of the Nic Cage performance from "Adaptation." and classic Carrey bits, especially in hilarious sequences where his Joel has to relive moments outside of his relationship with Clementine.  Oh, that bit where he is fighting with those kids is an instant classic!!  Winslet is solid as well, and how great is it to see Elijah Wood back in the real world?  Even the bit players give their sequences some weight; former Oscar nominee Wilkinson (for "In the Bedroom") and Mark Ruffalo work subtle magic as the brainwashers who try to rid Joel of his memories.

But, kind of like "Being John Malkovich" for me, I don't see the genius in trying to move around so much as to confuse the commonfolk, which I was falling into as I watched Joel try to relive his memories but in some cases, attempt to change fact, there comes a point in the story where some of the logic the movie has established goes out the window, and I jumped right the fuck out the window with it.  This led to a couple of those shared "What the fuck?" looks when I got out of the theater; I really don't know, between Joel and Clementine, how many times they had their brains wiped, and little bits like a comment in the doc's office ("Sorry, ma'am, you can't have the procedure done three times in one year") are leading me to rethink my conclusions even as I write this.  In the case of "Memento", that was cool, because it was kind of a mystery.

In "Eternal Sunshine", I'm not so sure I even care to know, and that is a little frustrating.  Still, the movie did resonate with me on some levels; even with the women that I have dated, when things don't work out there are some often beautiful moments that have been shared even if I was sent the Trik Template eventually.  And, the last girl I dated in San Francisco was a lot like the Clementine character, so in Joel I saw some interesting parallels as he took small risk after small risk to create a comfortable romantic atmosphere between the twosome.  Too bad the movie had to go all sci-fi on me.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09