Charlie Kaufman is known for some kind of strange screenplays (Being John Malkovich, and Adaptation are two I really enjoyed). Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is another. I had seen it several years ago, when first released in 2004 and I didn’t care for it very much. It was a film that won Best Original Screenplay for Charlie Kaufman, and it begins with E, so I watched it again.
This time I enjoyed it. Don’t know what put me off the first time, but this story of people desperate to rid their memories of failed romance works. The film is rated R for language, some drug and sexual content.
Joel (Jim Carrey) meets free spirit Clementine (Kate Winslet), and they end up in a stormy relationship. Joel finds out by accident that Clementine has undergone a procedure by Dr. Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson) to erase all memories of him. Dr. Mierzwiak‘s business, Lacuna, Inc., caters to those hurt by love that just want a new start.
Once Joel finds this out, he too wants the procedure done. After all it is non-surgical and deemed safe. Dr. Mierzwiak employs three assistants, Stan (Mark Ruffalo), Mary (Kirsten Dunst), and Patrick (Elijah Wood). Three kooky free spirits themselves, they administer the brain altering procedure to Joel in his bed in his own apartment during the night, getting into all sorts of escapades while he’s asleep.
That part was really funny, as is what happens when Joel begins to resist the erasing of his memories of Clementine. The world around him begins to fade and disappear, like a pencil erasing a picture someone has drawn. The cinematography reminded me of a more recent film, Inception, where the world folds in on itself. In the spotless mind, the world simply crumbles and turns to ash.
Clementine is an annoying sort of young woman, striving to be cool and daring for attention, which you know is done to cover up her insecurities and lack of confidence. She seems phony to me, but Joel loves her.
Joel is a lonely sort of guy, also insecure, but where Clementine likes to be on stage, he does not. He’s more of the wallflower type, miserable yet safe standing in a corner watching the world go by. I thought both characters were well written, and the performances by Carrey and Winslet excellent.
The three assistants to Dr. Mierzwiak are a welcome addition to the cast of characters. Their individual stories help to create the comedy in what could otherwise have been just a boring story about two miserable people looking to forget each other.
Is Valentine’s Day really the most miserable holiday of the year? For those unlucky in love, perhaps erasing your memories will make you happier. But does it? Be sure to watch the extra feature on the DVD of an ad for Lacuna, Inc. where Dr. Mierzwiak makes the case for undergoing his safe, non-surgical procedure. Then you can decide if you too want eternal sunshine in your mind.