March 23, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 90  

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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Sunshine is hard to forget


Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet
Directed by: Michel Gondry

By Claire Neary
Gazette Writer

Gazette file photo
ETERNAL SUNSHINE? MORE LIKE ETERNAL CRAP. Nobody likes winter, especially when they’re supposed to be living in the land of Eternal Sunshine.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a film you’ll either love or hate. Or, it will leave you so weirded-out you won’t be able to decide which side you’re on.

Eternal Sunshine is a post-modern, quasi-romantic comedy that’s not really romantic or funny. The film, which takes its name from an Alexander Pope poem, follows Joel Barish (Carrey) as he tries to erase and subsequently regain his memories of his eccentric, impulsive ex-girlfriend, Clementine Kruczynski (Winslet).

At first, the concept is simple. It’s almost Valentine’s Day, so Joel innocently goes to visit his girlfriend, Clementine, at work, in an attempt to patch things up after a fight. Instead of accepting his peace offering, Clementine acts as if she’s never seen him before. He discovers she has managed to completely eradicate all memories of Joel from her mind.

Hurt and confused, Joel concludes that his only option to get his life back on track is to undergo the procedure as well. After a brief consultation with Dr. Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson), Joel undergoes the procedure, which leaves him comatose in bed. The rest of the film takes place inside his vividly fading memories, revealing the fascinating and dysfunctional relationship with Clementine.

Joel’s erratic memories alternate between strikingly beautiful moments and horrible verbal fights, in which he must tiptoe around Clementine’s neediness and hot temper. Unfortunately, he cannot choose which memories to keep and which to erase. The film becomes a slow montage of mismatched memories that are sometimes hard to follow.

Unexpectedly, Carrey plays the boring, underdeveloped Joel exceedingly well. You won’t be left feeling Carrey is trying to suppress the urge to make a funny face or start making fart jokes. He is convincing as a shy introvert, and lets Winslet take over the role of the kooky, impulsive wise-cracker.

Winslet, just as surprisingly, steps out of her usual Shakespearean corset and into the role of Clementine as if it was written for her. Easily concealing her British accent, she plays Clementine as a self-described “vindictive little bitch,” brilliantly walking the thin line between being spontaneous and annoyingly needy.

Together, Carrey and Winslet possess an unexpected chemistry, which holds together their relationship — and the entire movie — amidst a mass of confusion and dysfunction.

They are supported by an equally well-cast team, including Kirsten Dunst, who spends the majority of the movie dancing in her underwear stoned, until she steps up to become the unexpected voice of moral reason.

Elijah Wood and Mike Ruffalo are the geeky, irresponsible team who botch Joel’s procedure.

Unfortunately, not even the beautiful cinematography or the strong acting can save Eternal Sunshine from the monotony of the middle of the film. As we jump from memory to random memory, including a strangely comical sequence in which Carrey depicts himself as a four-year-old child hiding under the table, the viewer is left wondering where these random events are leading, if anywhere.

Luckily, a touching and satisfying ending comes as close as possible to saving the film.

 

 

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