ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
Directed by Michel Gondry
Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman
Story by Charlie Kaufman & Michel Gondry & Pierre Bismuth
Over the weekend I went on a 45-minute bike ride. It was the only extensive bit of exercise I had performed in months. During the last leg, I had to get up a small incline before I made it home. My thighs felt tight and my left knee was sore. Earlier I had been riding up hills in eighteenth gear, but now I needed to shift down into sixth gear to keep from getting off the bike and walking it. When I got back in my garage, I was exhausted and chug-a-lugged a bottle of generic Gatorade. All the kids in their twenties are right; thirty-six is old.
My brain got a similar workout from watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. When the movie was over, I was slightly disorientated. While I was trying to piece together the story, I used some brain muscles that normally aren’t required when watching a film. Usually you can just sit back and be a passive participant. Most stories are extremely simple and have been performed so many times that they’ve entered our collective unconscious, such as the formula for a romantic comedy. If thinking makes your head hurt, this is not the movie for you.
Joel is having trouble getting over the break-up of his girlfriend Clementine. He brings a piece of jewelry to her at the Barnes & Noble where she works. She is very cruel and acts as if she has no idea who he is. Joel is crushed by this and relates this to his friends, one of who sympathizes with Joel and reveals to him that Clementine has gone to Lacuna, Inc to have all her memories of him erased. Joel decides to have the same procedure done. When the current memories of his unhappiness with her disappear and the past memories of the bliss that she brought him come to the forefront of his mind, he realizes that he loves Clementine. Since it is better to have loved and lost than to not have loved at all, he tries to stop the procedure so he can keep these memories. This is hard work because the men from Lacuna have mapped all the places where memories of Clementine are stored. Joel tries to hide her in memories she has nothing to do with, like before they met when he was a young child. This leads to an ingenious chase scene through Joel’s memories.
Eternal Sunshine is an amazing film powered by a very inventive script. It’s a wonderful love story through the crazy prism that is the mind of Charlie Kaufman, who is on his way to becoming a legendary screenwriter, if he isn't already. When most films end and you’re not completely clear sure of what just took place, it’s usually the filmmaker’s fault. In this case the pieces are all provided and it’s up to you to figure out what happened after the credits roll. You should go see it with someone, so together you can hash over the details. Puzzles are easier to put together when you do them with a friend. There are hints early on that something on a grand scale is going on.
It’s a film like Memento and The Sixth Sense where once it’s over you want to go back and watch it again to see if they made any mistakes, but odds are they didn’t. Everything seems to be thought out thoroughly and makes sense once you can put together the story. The company that performs the memory erasing process is Lacuna Inc and “lacuna” means “blank space.” How’s that for attention to detail? Also, like those previous films, you don’t want to hear anything regarding the film because that will just spoil things for you. I probably should have mentioned that earlier. Sorry.
Eternal Sunshine isn’t as accessible as Adaptation or Being John Malkovich, so it won’t be to everyone’s liking. It’s not a simple story to follow. The timeline is fluid like your memories, which causes confusion; however, this is an example where a non-linear narrative serves a purpose as a storytelling device. Yes, Quentin, I’m talking to you.
Attention to all critics’ groups and awards givers. It is over for this year’s winner of best original screenplay award. Sure, you have to pick out other nominees, but you might as well pick something that has already come out this year like 50 First Dates and take the rest of the year off because your work is done.
Lastly, on a completely lecherous note, Kristen Dunst looked HOT dancing in a white shirt and panties. I’m glad I hadn’t seen this movie before I ran into her at that coffee shop in West Hollywood. I probably would have embarrassed myself by asking her out, considering we are both involved in relationships. Although, after I saw this movie, she moved onto my list of five women that my wife has given me a free pass to cheat with. The ever-changing list currently includes Halle Barry, Salma Hayek, Monica Bellucci and Tori Amos, who I hope to have such a passionate love-hate relationship with that when we split up, it will inspire her to write a wicked album of love songs about us. That is unless she purges her memory before she has a chance to put pen to paper.