By Heather Wadowski Turk (JCO Editor/Reporter - L.A.)
After being ignored by the academy for "The Truman Show," "Man on the Moon" and even "The Majestic," Charlie Kaufman's "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" could very well be the film that earns Jim Carrey that long overdue Oscar nomination. However, similar to Denzel Washington, Bill Murray and Johnny Depp, the chance at the gold would be more of a "sorry we ignored you in the past" gesture than anything else, since Carrey's role as a hurt, lovestruck loser isn't any bit more memorable than Truman Burbank or Andy Kaufman.
In "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," Carrey plays Joel Barish, a shy and gangly loner who is crushed to find out that his girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) has literally erased him from her memory. Rather than forgive and forget, Joel decides simply to forget and undergoes the procedure himself. About halfway through the procedure though, Joel realizes that in order to forget the pain, he must forget the good times as well, and changes his mind about having his memory erased. Unfortunately, he's unconscious and already mid-way through the procedure when he comes to this realization, so he can't simply call the whole thing off. Instead, in a desperate attempt to never forget the love the two once shared, Joel races off with Clementine and takes her to the far corners of his mind in order to try to save whatever memories of their failed relationship he can before it's all gone for good.
Charlie Kaufman's screenplay is a weird, twisted love story that starts at the end rather than the beginning. While audiences think that they are being introduced to the two lovebirds when they first meet, as the story unfolds we learn that these two already have a history with one another-- they just don't remember it. Viewers are then taken back in time to when Joel decides to have his memory erased, where their true story unfolds memory by memory, fight by fight, kiss by kiss. In the end, viewers realize that the old saying "every dark cloud has its silver lining" is true, and that nothing-- not even having your memory erased-- can keep true love apart.
Carrey shines in the dark love story, though his acting range isn't nearly as great as what fans have seen in "Man on the Moon" or "The Truman Show." In fact, Carrey plays second fiddle to Kate Winslet's flawless performance, and for once it's someone else who steals the show in a Jim Carrey movie. Winslet is perfect as the spontaneous, neurotic, neon-colored hair motor mouth, and although Clementine and Joel are as different as night and day, viewers will understand the unique connection they have thanks to Winslet and Carrey's powerful performances, and why that connection's so powerful that even a medical procedure can't keep the two apart.
Winslet and Carrey are supported by a fabulous cast as well, though some of the film's subplots are a bit underdeveloped. One subplot in particular, where Elijah Wood's character (the tech nerd/medical assistant Patrick) uses Joel's memory procedure for his own personal gain to go out with Clementine, is particularly a complete waste of time, as viewers would much rather see more intimate memories of Clementine and Joel than Patrick hitting on Clementine. However, the subplot between Tom Wilkinson (who plays the doctor who's perfected the memory erasure procedure) and Kirsten Dunst (who plays his assistant) helps tie Clementine and Joel's story together quite nicely, and really showcases the whole "love is blind" theory we've all been brought up on.
As captivating as the story is though, Carreyholics brought up on Carrey's more polished films like "Batman Forever" and "Liar Liar" might find the roughness of "Eternal Sunshine" hard to get used to. The sleekness of Carrey's other big budgeted films is replaced with a gritty, handheld cam feel, and the pacing of "Eternal" makes "The Majestic" feel rushed. Still, for those who truly appreciate Carrey for his talents and are with him for the long haul, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" could be Carrey's most unique gem yet. A film unlike anything he's ever done before, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" is for real Carreyholics-- a movie that lets Carrey shine, but lets its other stars, the script and its direction shine even brighter.
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