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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind DVD Review

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

April 18, 2005

Director: Michel Gondry,
Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Gerry Robert Byrne, Elijah Wood, Thomas Jay Ryan, Mark Ruffalo, Jane Adams, David Cross, Kirsten Dunst, Tom Wilkinson, Ryan Whitney, Debbon Ayer, Amir Ali Said, Brian Price, Paul Litowsky, ,

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DVD Review

The Jim Carrey laughter train stopped somewhere inside the first act of ‘Bruce Almighty’, so it was a wise choice to take on this serious thought provoking surreal romantic drama that comments on the bliss of ignorance and the process of reasoning behind who we allow into our lives. With the master scriptwriter that gave us ‘Being John Malkovich’ and ‘Adaptation’ behind the pen, you can understand why this tremendous cast has signed up. Although the script is brilliant it just doesn’t hit that ‘genius’ level that we have come to expect from Charlie Kaufman.

Jim Carrey is Joel Barrish, a social cripple, who is the other half of Kate Winslet’s impulsive extrovert Clementine, a couple who have grown tired and bored of one another. One morning Joel awakes to find that his lover has had him erased from her memory. In response he retaliates by getting the same company ‘Lacuna’ to repeat the process on him.

This is where most of the action takes place, inside Joel’s memories. Starting from the last time that he saw Clementine, we watch their relationship in reverse, ending with their first meeting, as the Lacuna staff erases it. The erasers made up of Elijah Wood and Mark Ruffalo comically loaf around Joel’s apartment whilst going about the task in hand. A problem arises when Joel decides that he still loves Clementine and doesn’t want her erased from his head, and it becomes a game of cat and mouse as he tries to hide her in his deepest, darkest memories.

The visual style is quite disturbing with its random use of jump cuts, reverse angles, unconventional lighting and constantly contorting scenery and sets. However it does create quite a real feel to the dream/memory scenes. The over use of handheld camera work is just plain annoying and permanently unsettling, and not in that good ‘David Lynch’ way. Yet hidden in all the visual madness is some truly stunningly looking shots, like when the couple wake up in bed in the middle of a snow-covered beach.

The surreal world, in which Joel is trapped in, is completely opposed by the linear and predictably conventional story told back in the real world by Joel’s sleeping body in his apartment. The story of the Lacuna staff unfolds in a rather sluggish pace but pays off by the climax of the film.

This is an all-star cast, with the two main stars almost switching their regular identities as Kate Winslet tries her best to be more Jim Carrey than he is. Unfortunately they all give rather forgettable performances. Elijah Wood in his first role since completing ‘The Return of the King’ is bland and Kirsten Dunst who is in-between Spider-Mans feels clumsy and pathetic as Lacunas receptionist. Even dancing around in just her vest and pants can’t save this performance. The head of Lacuna is Dr Howard Mierzwiuk played by another Brit, Tom Wilkinson, who’s more likely to be remembered for his stints in Inspector Morse, Lovejoy and The Full Monty. Only Kate Winslet and Mark Ruffalo manages to breathe much needed life into ‘Eternal Sunshine’.

You might feel as if you’ve watched a one hundred and forty-minute music video, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as the helmer is Michel Gondry whose previous work consists of directing a Chemical Brothers video. ‘Eternal Sunshine’ asks the questions and gives no answers and although mildly enjoyable, all the fun that was promised in the trailer never comes through.

Special Features

The extra features are almost as bland as the supporting cast and don’t boast anything of much worth. There are four deleted scenes, which neither add nor detract from your final experience of watching the film.

A commentary from director Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman, both fill the running time with chatter but not giving us anything in depth, and at times Gondry’s French accent is incomprehensible, which doesn’t help.

An inside look which holds interviews with the major players. Finally a twenty-second piece which looks as if it supposed to be Lacuna’s TV advert, but is never actually seen in the film. Not very impressive.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 60%

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