Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Braindiving (part 2)

[Screenshot]I randomize my movie order, pretty much to avoid too much overexposure to a particular genre or style or what-have-you. But even randomness occasionally has repetitions, so I seem to have accidentally gotten myself two successive reverse-chronology films with memory-impaired protagonists. However, they’re both critically-acclaimed films I failed to see at the time, so they made it onto my (rather long) list.

Anyways, it’s worth mentioning that this film made me reassess my fairly uncharitable opinion of Jim Carrey. He seemed to be a madcap idiot with one good film in him (The Truman Show), sort of the flavor-of-the-month antic comic between Pauly Shore and Adam Sandler. It’s nice to see that he has a bit more range, and he plays a straight man, an authentically sedate person in a serious role and he makes it work. That’s a long way from Ace Ventura, and I heartily approve of the maturaiton of his acting skills.

Charlie Kaufman is of course the other talent whose hand is obvious in this film. There are shades of Being John Malkovich; in fact, the entire central part of the film somewhat resembles the scene in which John Malkovich enters his own head and is subjected to a self-referential mashup of his own thoughts and memories. This is, in fact, the film’s greatest weakenss: that sort of dream-surreality works great for 10 minutes; for an hour, one starts wondering when this mess will stop and the actual plot will resume. The reverse-sequencing is good: seeing the progression of the central relationship move from the bitter end to its sweetest moments is excellent plotwise, but each sequence therein lasts a bit too long, and we know and understand what Joel’s doing without his run through his memories being quite as drawn-out as it was.

Other than the pacing, though, I’m basically impressed. Kaufman’s distorted realism has produced another delightfully twisted storyline, and it’s well acted-out. I particularly like the subversion of a the “unremarkable repressed boy meets free-spirited girl who teaches him how to live” trope; in that pretty much the first thing we see is that, sure enough, the guy’s as dull and the girl as irresponsible as their characters suggest; and later fwe find further, that she knows that trope and refuses to conform to it—and that becomes a defining characteristic of their relationship. Nice one. If you can’t avoid a cliché, flip it on its head.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.


About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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