Thursday, December 31, 2009

Film Decade List #1: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, USA, 2004)

2004 was a pretty good year, wasn't it? Both my music and film choices happen to come from the same year, which I didn't realize until to preparing to write them. Anyway, I may claim to be a film snob but the films that really get my attention are the ones that still can tell a good story with some feeling to it. Through all its visual gee-wizardry by Gondry, ESOTSM has a really authentic story at the heart of it. Charlie Kaufman's script still has its outlandish and mind-bending moments but at its core, the film is really a simple love story well told. Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet) have gone through a devastating breakup. Joel finds a company that has the technology for the user to have painful moments removed from their memory. This leads to the unspooling of Joel and Clementine's relationship and the realization in Joel that perhaps those memories aren't better off erased. Both Winslet and Carrey give career best performances in roles that seem almost opposite their know screen persona: Winslet as a outre spirit, and Carrey as a brooding sad-sack. Gondry's visual flair add that something to the film that make it jangled last half work extremely well. Both of those only go to enhance what is again, the hear of the film, Kaufman's screenplay. It carries the offbeat elements that can be expected out of a Kaufman script but underneath its uniqueness are some fairly good points about love and memory. The nature of wanting to banish painful memories is something familiar in just about everybody but they can also be beneficial, to help live out what's ahead. That Joel comes to a recognition of this and realizes that the bad memories will take out a lot of the good ones is important. It could have been told in a flat, cynical way with a lot of Gondry fireworks and been a complete bomb. Eternal Sunshine succeeds because no one in it was afraid of being sincere with the material. That it told its fairly standard love story with a exuberance and inventiveness not really seen in mainstream cinema, it deserves to be the best of the decade.

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