Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Jim Carrey in yet another serious role? Kirsten Dunst in a dramatic turn? A film with no specific narrative, and no standard timeline? You probably think that it’s one of those “art” movies that are going to go over your head, have all the critics salivate for a few months, get a few awards and be forgotten. You might be wrong.

What a movie! What a script! Regardless of how much money this flick will make at the box office, it’s one great achievement. And, to make things even more interesting, let me tell you right away, this is a very “accessible” movie. Not dumbed down, but rather, presented in such a way that you can view it as a love story, or as a study of human nature’s futility. The movie works on many levels, and you’re not required to “get” everything in order to come out of the theater feeling satisfied and entertained.
I truly hope that Charlie Kaufman (also wrote “Adaptation” and “Being John Malkovich”) gets the attention he deserves, but at the same time, doesn’t sell out to bloated, blockbuster projects. For the past few years his movies have been generating a lot of talk, and receiving the most favorable opinions. And although the earlier films might have been “over the head” for the general public, I think “Eternal Sunshine” can be a big hit for him in the long run. It just works so well as a simple love story.

It’s a pleasure to watch Jim Carrey play a simple guy, a lovable human being who has a problem, or rather, a journey that he doesn’t want to take. He lets emotion dictate some of his decisions, and must undertake the journey knowing perfectly well it’s going to be painful. Sure, it may sound like I’m exaggerating, but it’s so easy to see Jack Lemmon and Henry Fonda in this role. Two great actors, who have consistently delivered memorable performances. Maybe Carrey will too become a frequent face in serious, cerebral movies. Hell, I liked him in “Man on the Moon”, but many people didn’t.

It’s a great feeling to be able to sit back during the movie and contemplate the bigger picture, the commentary on human nature that Kaufman is trying to convey. Again, he’s not forcing these heavy topics upon you, but if you happen to think about the movie after you leave the theater, it’s an enjoyable ride. So what is Kaufman saying – what do we want – things that we cannot achieve? People that we’re not compatible with? Why do we want them in the first place? And why do we spiral down into fights and misunderstandings later on? The explanation is simple – and I’m not going to spoil anything for anyone by saying “it’s better to have loved and lost, than never loved at all”. At least that’s the moral of the story for me. You may see it differently.

I saw the movie with a friend, who later wondered just how many clinics like “Lacuna” has the doctor opened and subsequently closed. How many people have had “the procedure” and are trying to find their way back to “as things were before”? There’s a whole other level in the movie’s conclusion, and it’s not even important that perhaps we’re both reading too much into this. What matters is that we come out thinking. About human nature, about ourselves. Not about the time we had to kill in the theater, and the money we had to spend at the doors.

I wonder how well would this movie do if it was released on a Valentine week? Would women drag their boyfriends and husbands to see it? Would it result in many retrospective conversations afterwards? Would they walk out feeling enriched? Or would they wish they saw “50 First Dates”, “Barbershop 2”, or “Catch That Kid” instead (major studio releases for Valentines Day 2004)? I think this movie would have generated a good word of mouth.

Regardless of the money it makes, it’s a great way to spend an evening, and keep your brains alive. Enjoy this movie with your loved ones today. I for one, am getting it on DVD when it comes out. It’s worth it.

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