A review of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: R for nudity and language

Run Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

 

 

Jim Carrey exposes his vulnerable side in this quirky comedy that can only be categorized as an acquired taste.

Come to think of it, most of scribe Charlie Kaufman’s work (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich) is an acquired taste, an olio of nonconformist and disjointed liberties taken with dialogue and narrative.  I’m consistently confused by Kaufman’s eccentric spin on his craft, but there’s a silver lining to Sunshine’s cloud.

Carrey is perpetual loser/loner Joel, stunned into disbelief when he discovers that his free-spirited girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) has had memories of their tumultuous affair erased from her mind.

Determined to get the root of this au courant blow-off, a betrayed Joel contacts the inventor of the cutting-edge process (Tom Wilkinson as Dr. Howard Mierzwiak) and attempts a reciprocal procedure.

In classic Kaufman fashion, things don’t go as planned.  As Joel’s memories are slowly and ceaselessly expunged, his subconscious attempts to block the technique. Joel’s mind peels back layers of romantic frustration and dysfunction and rediscovers a powerful love for Clementine.

When Sunshine is working, it’s delightfully demented and edgy enough to sustain interest.  Winslet and Carrey play well off of one another, exposing psychological dark sides that convene at a maniacal but mutually exclusive place.

Sub-plots drag down the pace, especially those involving peripheral characters Stan (Mark Ruffalo), Mary (Kirsten Dunst), and Patrick (Elijah Wood) as Mierzwiak disciples. Abstract lulls and genuine laughs shape-shift into a nebulous whole that screams disorderly but stimulating Kaufman.   

Slightly nightmarish and surreal in the extreme, Sunshine may be the most inventive film of the season. Who better than enlightened poet Alexander Pope to sum it up…

 

How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!

The world forgetting, the world forgot.

Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!

Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d.

                   --- From “Eloisa to Abelard”