Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Dir. Michel Gondry
Scrn: Charlie Kaufman
Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst, Elijah Wood, Tom Wilkinson, etc.

This is one of those films I’ve been meaning to rewatch, especially since it appears of several best of teh decade lists. I got a chance to do so a few weeks ago.

I think most idiots would enjoy this film. I know Mitchell said he really liked this film and that’s not surprising. I could see Tony, Kevin, Chris, Joel and Jill liking this quite a bit, too. I’d expect Penny and Grace to enjoy this, but I’m not sure how much. I thought Larri would like this, but she said she didn’t

Joel Barish (Carrey) has broken up with Clementine (Winslet) and he discovers a company that will completely erase her from his memory.

Is this one of the best films of the 2000s? The answer is that I think it certainly deserves consideration, and I would put the film in the second tier at least.
There are two reasons I would do that. First, I think it’s a solid film (more on this later). Second, I think it’s a very original film and, third–and equally important–I think the original elements work well with the story and forms a unified film(unlike some of Kaufman’s previous films).

Let me go into the overall quality of the film. First of all, let me start by an admission: I really like Kate Winslet–by this I mean she has a way of making want her to fall in love with me. I don’t know what or why this happens, but there you go. This quality really does influence my reaction to the film. On the other hand, I don’t think I would need to feel this strong of a reaction for the film to work. I do think that for romances, falling a little in love with the female lead (or falling in love with the male lead if you’re a hetero-female) is an important factor for the film’s success.

Winslet’s effect probably made me care about and buy the relationship–although Carrey does a solid job, especially in the straight role in the comedic moments. (The filmmakers’ choosing Carrey as the straight man and Winslet as the crazy one is an interesting move.) This is crucial, and the film works because of this.

5 Responses to “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)”

  1. Arlyn

    Wow. I didn’t know what I was watching on my first viewing. After the second time, it clicked. I propose we all meet in Montauk to discuss this film.

    The story is truly original and like Reid said it felt more unified than than the previous Kaufman films.

    The film was perfectly cast. Perfectly! I’m not a Kirsten Dunst fan but she was great. Carrey and Winslet really were amazing here. Great music. Amazing film overall.

    This is a film I would consider representing the best of the decade for obvious reasons explained.

    I mention obvious because I also viewed Werckmeister Harmonies in the same week and like Sunshine, I didn’t know what the heck I was watching. But I’ll discuss this more in the Harmonies thread.

  2. Reid

    After the second time, it clicked. I propose we all meet in Montauk to discuss this film.

    Heh. I’d have no complaints. What was confusing for you? Were you confused because of the sequence of events? (I think I’m still confused about the bookstore scene. I’m not sure when that scene occurs in the actual events that happened in the characters’ lives.)

    I really liked the casting, too.

    Do you agree about the importance of casting and chemistry with the leads? (I think this is especially true for romantic movies.) This is sort of tricky issue when it comes to evaluating films, especially if the film is a great one or not. I mean, if someone said they just didn’t like Winslet or Carrey or, worse, said they didn’t think the actors had chemistry with each other, what could one say? The film wouldn’t work, and I’d be hard-pressed to make an argument against this.

    Btw, I don’t know if I mentioned that I really liked the ending. The ending posed challenges and the one the filmmakers came up wasn’t easy to execute, but they came through with fly colors, imo. (I liked Winslet’s reactions.)

  3. Arlyn

    Yes, the sequence of events confused me. Your question on the bookstore…there were a few scenes in the bookstore. I loved the ending. I could easily watch this again.

    Chemistry between the leads definitely. In Sunshine, I wasn’t attracted to Carrey. Maybe a girl crush on Winslet so I know where you’re coming from 🙂 I believe the story because of the chemistry between the leads.

  4. Reid

    Here’s a description of the scene I meant:

    The scene takes place in Barnes and Noble (and occurs before the scene where the Beach House falls apart). Clem has bright red hair and Joel is asking her out. She tells him she’s high maintenance and that she’s just a “fucked-up girl trying to look for her own piece of mind.” It seems like the memory of the day after they both first met. The scene is a bit confusing because in the memories right before this one, Joel and Clem are conscious actors in Joel’s memory, trying to hide Clem so she won’t be erased. But at the start of this B&N scene, they both seem to be acting as they did when the memory actually took place. However, by the end of the scene, they seem to be conscious that they’re in a memory and Joel says they’re relationship might work on a second try.

    Oh, and for what it’s worth, here’s my take on the ending:

    In the end, Clem goes over to Joel’s house while he listens to the tape recording of his thoughts about Clem (which he had to make in order to erase his memories of her). Joel says nasty things about Clem on the tape and Clem leaves. In the hallway, Joel asks Clem to stay, and she says it’s pointless because Joel will eventually find something he doesn’t like about Clem, while she’ll eventually feel bored and trapped and want to get out the relationship. Joel shrugs, smiles and says, “OK.” and Clem, while realizing something, says, “OK” and sort of laughs and cries at the same time.

    I interpreted this in two ways: 1) it could mean that even if the relationship falls a part, they both realize they prefer to be with each and at least enjoy the relationship while it lasts; 2) it could mean that they’ve accepted that there are limitations in the relationship and the other person, but ultimately these limitations doesn’t mean the relationship is bad or has to end. I think both interpretations are valid, but the second resonated with me, just because it’s something I can relate to. In a relationship—even a really good one—there are things you really don’t like about the other person or aspects of the relationship that seem really problematic. But sometimes, in a good relationship, these things don’t matter so much—and there isn’t always a good explanation for this.

    You said, “Chemistry between the leads definitely. In Sunshine, I wasn’t attracted to Carrey. Maybe a girl crush on Winslet so I know where you’re coming from.”


  5. Arlyn

    In certain scenes, not just the bookstore scene, I did get that the event or experience was totally new to the characters but then eventually became familiar as if they were re-living the memory.

    Yes, I got that they would work on a second try.

    It was a good ending. I’m going for the latter too, trying again and especially about accepting each other’s limitations.

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