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Joel Barish has a big problem. His girlfriend doesn't know who he is anymore. Now, don't misunderstand. It's not that she confronted him with the old "I don't know who you are anymore" speech so regularly used to send boyfriends off to Dump City. It's that she literally doesn't remember ever knowing him. You see, instead of just breaking up with Joel, she decided to make an appointment with LACUNA Inc. The good people at LACUNA specialize in erasing unwanted memories. Apparently, Joel's girlfriend, Clementine, couldn't live with the memory of Joel even being a part of her life. Ouch! Now that's gotta hurt! Anyway, Joel decides to ease the pain of discovering this by having Clementine erased from his memories, as well. Yeah, that'll show her! Unfortunately, it only leads to an even bigger problem because, midway through the erasing procedure, Joel has a change of heart.
Much of what follows are the twisted, crumbling recollections of a bittersweet romance, as Joel desperately fights to retain his memories of Clementine, played by Kate Winslet. Meanwhile, on the other side of Joel's cerebellum are the LACUNA techies, played by Mark Ruffalo and Elijah Wood. They're just trying to figure out why the darn procedure keeps going off track!
The screenplay for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was written by Charlie Kaufman. Remember him? As with his past works, Eternal Sunshine is clever, original, and, at times, just plain weird. Some of Kaufman's earlier stories have taken us into the minds of a famous actor, a near-famous screenwriter, and even a game show host turned CIA hitman. Strangely enough, this head trip takes us on a journey into the mind of a completely ordinary, mild-mannered introvert. Sounds like it could be a pretty dull ride, eh? Well, what if our wallflower, Joel, is played by Jim Carrey? Ah ha! Now we've got something! Jim Carrey is one weird, wild guy!
Can you imagine what the weirdest thing Jim Carrey could possibly do would be? It's to not act weird. Yes, Carrey tones down his zany personality quite a bit to play Joel. I'm not kidding! No talking out of his butt, no silly noises, and he only mugs for the camera.... two or three times. The result is Carrey's finest performance to date. Believe it or not, he's actually quite good at not being weird. You've read correctly, a believably dramatic Jim Carrey... now, that's really, really weird!
Another weird thing about Eternal Sunshine is that, while the story is both interesting and thought provoking, it's missing a couple things that are equally important. It's missing emotional depth and any sense of fun. Michel Gondry's direction creates a very dreary overall tone, his low-budget, documentary-like approach serving to drain many of the whimisical possibilities from Kaufman's screenplay. As a result, I admired Eternal Sunshine for its clever ideas, but wasn't engaged enough to really care about its characters. Put simply, Kaufman's customary sly narrative and Jim Carrey's acting performance aside, Eternal Sunshine just isn't that memorable.
Directed By: Michel Gondry
Written By: Charlie Kaufman & Michel Gondry & Pierre Bismuth (story)
Charlie Kaufman (screenplay)
Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Elijah Wood, Thomas Jay Ryan, Mark Ruffalo,
Jane Adams, David Cross, Kirsten Dunst, Tom Wilkinson
MPAA: Rated R for language, some drug and sexual content.