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Culture Reviews
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Tchaikovsky Cultural Center 
By Ryan Macalino
You’ve probably heard it before: “Ignorance is Bliss”. Now, suppose science granted you the ability to achieve a ‘spotless’ mind, could you really bask in the bliss that this eternal sunshine could provide? This is essentially the crux of this new film, written by Charlie Kaufman. Masquerading as a regular boy-meets-girl movie, we find that it is littered with numerous existentialist references, much like his previous work.

Kaufman if you may remember, was the same warped mind who penned “Being John Malkovich”, “Human Nature”, and “Adaptation”. Surrounded by an all-star cast featuring Jim Carrey, Kaufman enlisted “Human Nature” director Michel Gondry, who does not disappoint. The verdict: “Eternal Sunshine…” is a superb film.

Memory Maze

The movie opens with Carrey’s character, Joel, waking up from bed and getting on his way to work, when he suddenly gets a strong impulse to take the train to a place he’s never been to before. It is on this little journey where he meets Clementine, played by Kate Winslet. By the time the opening credits roll shortly after, chronology is out the window, and we are treated to an exciting labyrinth-like story, populated with images both real and surreal.

Later we learn that there is a new breakthrough in Neural Science: a procedure to eliminate chunks of memory “equivalent to a night of heavy drinking”. After learning that Clementine had just recently subscribed to this treatment to remove her memories of Joel, he decides he wants to do the same, only to have second-thoughts midway through the procedure. The rest of the movie then proceeds as an adventure, as Joel tries his best to squirrel away his remaining memories of Clementine, while layer after layer of the whole truth unfolds.

Great Expectations

Before I came to see this movie, I was unsure of only two things: as a Charlie Kaufman fan, I knew his screenplay was as good as gold. I also thought the same of the supporting cast: Winslet, Tom Wilkinson (Dr. Mierzwiak), and Kirsten Dunst (Mary) are all very accomplished actors in the world of English-language cinema. To me, the success of the movie hinged on two critical questions… First of all, can Michel Gondry direct this movie with the same sensitivity and connection that Spike Jonze exhibited in “…Malkovich” and “Adaptation”? Well, as I said earlier, he does not disappoint, although his style has softened quite considerably from “Human Nature”. He has taken a more subtle approach, and even with some very imaginative visuals, you still can’t help but be immersed in the actors’ performances.

So that takes us to critical question two: What about Jim Carrey? Well, as the flag-bearer, he finally gets to flex his dramatic muscles to great effect. It is in this vehicle where Carrey finally does a great job in shedding his clown-prince persona. In earlier dramatic efforts such as “The Truman Show” and “The Majestic”, you were always secretly waiting for him to freak out and overact, a la “Ace Ventura” or “Liar, Liar”. As a visibly older (and very disheveled) Carrey, however, his features are more pronounced and his performance more sincere. Yes folks, he has finally arrived.

Bittersweet Symphony

It is evident to see the ease in which Carrey is able to portray his character with the same multi-layered complexity as Kaufman’s script and Gondry’s direction. “Eternal Sunshine…” is not only very entertaining, but also a very intimate study that hopefully engages the mind and evokes memories past. If we are only but a collection of our experiences both bitter and sweet, what happens once memories are forgotten or erased? Even though the procedure is deemed irreversible, the chance to rediscover ourselves will always remain.

01.05.04
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