Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Lobotomies for Fun and Profit

So we're up to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the first movie of the 2000s to be reviewed so far!  This quirky and original film starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet came out in 2004, and won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.  "They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?" puts it at 515 on their list.

Full Disclosure: I'm familiar with the movie, but I've never actually seen it.  It's been sitting in DVD form in my room for probably 5 years, and I'm finally getting around to watching it.  Yay!

So Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is the story of Joel Barish, a shy, insecure guy who's just gotten out of a serious relationship with Clementine, his "free-spirited" (read: insanely high maintenance and unpredictable) girlfriend.  Which is, you know, OK, until Joel finds out that Clementine has hired a company to erase all of her memories of Joel.  Because she's impulsive. (Seriously, this girl is a nut job.)  Joel's understandably a little hurt, so he decides to get back at her by having his memories of her erased. ("Take that!")

We follow Joel as he experiences the memories of his relationship with Clem one by one, only to have them erased.  It doesn't take him long to realize that he doesn't really want to forget about her, so he spends the rest of the night (the procedures always take place while the patient is sleeping) trying to hang on to his memories of Clem.  He tries to hide her away in some of his more humiliating, repressed childhood memories.

Meanwhile, the two technicians (who don't seem to be properly qualified to be doing this type of procedure) are screwing around at Joel's house while erasing his memories.  Stan invites his gf Mary (the receptionist) over, and they pretty much party it up...while performing what is essentially brain surgery.  Awesome.  But once they realize that Joel is making a concerted effort to save his memories and goes off the grid, they have to call in the boss man to fix things.

Howard shows up, and he is clearly the only competent one at his company, because he fixes everything lickety split.  Unfortunately, Mary comes on to him, then finds out that they used to be involved, and she had the memories of their affair erased.  Which makes things, you know, complicated.  They finish erasing the memories, but before everything is completely gone, Clem whispers in Joel's ear, "Meet me in Montauk!"  And he wakes up, with no memory of his ex-girlfriend.

Which brings us back to the beginning of the movie: Joel inexplicably decides not to go to work, and catches the train back to Montauk.  Where he re-meets Clementine.  They reconnect (or connect for the first time, depending on perspective) and have a really great night.  But the next morning, Clem finds a letter at her apartment (courtesy of Mary) telling her about the procedure she had done.  She also gets a cassette tape (officially dating the movie horribly) which is basically a recording of her bitching about every single thing that's wrong with Joel.  He is sad.

Then Joel goes home, finding the same letter (and a similarly bitchy cassette tape).  Clem shows up at his apartment to talk while the tape is playing.  Joel wants to shut it off, but Clem insists that it's only fair that she hear it, because he had to listen to hers.  So she listens (and apparently pronounces the word library as "li-bary", which is actually something that really annoys me), and doesn't like what she hears.  So now she's sad.

She starts to leave, but Joel insists that she wait a while, so they can give it another try.  Clearly they are not well suited for each other and this relationship is doomed to failure, but Clem and Joel are apparently gluttons for pain, so they (presumably, it's a little open-ended) sign up for round 2.

Random Musings:

  • OK, I've never seen a LIRR train that empty in my life.  Ha they're going to Rockville Center -- that's like 10 minutes from where I am, writing this review.

  • Jesus, Clementine is an emotional time bomb.  Whatever you do, don't use the word, "nice."  Also, she's a little bit, "Look at me, I'm quirky!  Aren't I such a uniquely written character?"

  • freaking cute are her potato people??

  • Why does everyone in movies seem to think that the white rape van is the best way to stealthily go unnoticed?

  • OMG, the woman sitting next to Jim Carrey wants to erase the memory of her dog?  Seriously?  Who are these pathetic people?  Man up and deal with a little bit of pain!

  • OK, so basically they're doing brain surgery on his house...with a computer that looks like it's from 1993...while drinking beer and smoking pot?  How has no one been accidentally lobotomized yet?  And wouldn't it make tons more sense to do this procedure in an office, where you could have a permanent set-up, and then just take the person home afterward?  While we're at it, how come Tom Wilkinson's not doing these procedures?  Because I sure as shit would not trust Mark Ruffalo and Elijah Wood with my brain!

  • So Patrick fell in love with Clementine while she was unconscious and then stole a pair of her underwear?  Gee Patrick, that's not creepy at all.  What's that?  Oh, they were a clean pair of underwear?  Well, that's a horse of a different color.  I withdraw my complaint.

  • Clementine is kind of a raging bitch.  I'd want to forget her too.

  • I withdraw the withdrawal of my complaint.  Patrick's a full on sociopath.

  • I really like the repeated visuals of the waves and sand, and also the snow.  It's a great metaphor for erasing memories.

So that was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  I think the best thing going for this movie is that it's got a great, unique concept, and for the most part it's executed brilliantly.  It's engaging, and there really wasn't any point in the film where I lost interest.  It's an incredibly visually stimulating film, especially while inside Joel's brain.  There's a million things happening at once, as things enter the space and leave the space with memories are being erased, and it really is art.  The only thing I'm not crazy about is Clementine.  I don't like her.  I like Kate Winslet, but the character of Clementine irritates me to no end.  She just seemed really unreasonable, and would pick fights at random times, and was determined to take everything Joel said the wrong way.  But I thought that Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet did a really great job with their characters, as well as having a pretty spot on supporting cast.  And at the end of the day, when we live in a world where 8 out of the 10 highest grossing films of all time are either adaptations or sequels, there's something to be said for a film that really isn't that much like any other film.  Eternal Sunshine certainly succeeds there, and like many other films on this list, I feel that I would appreciate it more upon a second or third viewing.

Thanks for reading!  Come back tomorrow for True Heart Susie

Want to know more about the Top 1000 List?  Check it out and see if your favorites are here! They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?

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Anonymous said...

It's Kirsten Dunst not Kate Winslet...
Not sure how you messed that up

Audrey on a Mission said...

I'm not sure what you mean...

Kirsten is Mary, Kate is Clementine, yeah? I think I'm missing something...

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