Monday, May 31, 2004

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a brilliant movie. It's written by Charlie Kaufman, the same man who gave us Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. With those kind of credentials, it was guaranteed that this film was going to be a kooky one.


In brief, the show's about the relationship between Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet). Joel and Clementine have been going out for two years now and their relationship has been rather tumultuous. After a particular bad argument, Clementine decides to have Joel erased from her memory, as if they've never met. Once he discovers that she's done that, he retaliates by going to the same clinic, Lacuna Inc., and having the same radical procedure done to him too. However, in the midst of the erasing process, he rediscovers the memories of why he fell in love with her in the first place, and tries his best to keep those memories, even going to the extent of hiding her in places where he figures they'll never look.

The movie is very sweet and poignant. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet do a fantastic job, Jim as the bland and boring Joel who is in reality, the kind of guy who you'd dump for being too nice and too uninteresting, and Kate as the unpredictable, tempestuous and impulsive Clementine who has a weakness for alcohol. They both play the parts of two characters who could have come across as unlikable but do so in such a way that you feel for both of them. You can really see the motivation behind why either of them acts the way they do, why they're such messed up individuals. While Clementine did come across as whiny and just entirely too crazy at first, I really liked her when she asked Joel if he was ever afraid that he wasn't living live to the fullest every single possible minute. It's kind of how I've been feeling ever since work began and I have to say, the urge to want to live is stronger now more than ever.

This is the kind of film you shouldn't watch with a date. Why? Because while watching it, it made me feel as though I wanted to get back together with my ex-boyfriend. It's that kind of movie. Both you and Joel go through the same journey of discovery together. While watching him come to the realisation that the good memories make you feel so wonderful that it's worthwhile putting up with all of the bad ones, you yourself ache just a little recalling how good your own past relationships made you feel once upon a magical time.

(Added on June 2: Interestingly enough, I came across an interview with the film's producer and he mentioned that quite a few people had sent him notes of congratulations after the show's successful opening... and that he had also received notes from people mentioning that they had recently received letters from an ex.)

There're other themes in this movie as well - such as if you arrive at a point whereby you are armed with the full knowledge that the relationship you are about to enter will end disastrously, would you still go through with it? I don't know if I could. I'm the kind of person who avoids relationships simply because I know I wouldn't be able to cope with work if my social life became as messed up as my situation at work right now.

Another interesting question raised was whether love can indeed defeat science. If you were to have your memories of your ex erased and he had the same done to his memories of you, and you both were to bump into each other under the same circumstances when you initially encountered each other, would you two still fall in love?

The script is well-written with many insightful, incisive one-liners. I love how well the dialogue just seemed to flow, with nary a wrong note sounding. There were many parts in which the lines could have seemed so forced, but the excellent cast of just Carrey and Winslet but everyone managed to carry everything off.

I especially love how they had Joel not just witness his memories but interact with them. He carries out conversations with Clementine, such as during their second meeting at the Barnes & Noble's where she works, and she gives him a little speech about how she doesn't want to be anyone's saviour and he stops and smiles and just says, "I remember that speech really well." "I had you pegged, didn't I?" she grins back. It's all so natural and sweet that you can't help but love how well the two opposites seem to click.

The best scene in the film, I felt, was when the two were in the beach house after spending the day together and Clementine asks him to stay, but instead he chooses to leave as he's a little scared by how crazy she is. He says that he's going to go, so she responds, "So go!" So he does. In the middle of the memory, Joel turns around and says, "I wish I'd stayed." Clementine responds that she wishes that he had too. Then as the beach house starts to collapse around them as the memory is being erased, she asks him to come back and say goodbye. At first he protests as in reality, he just ran. "Make up a goodbye!" she says, and so he does. This scene is put together so tenderly and beautifully that I couldn't help but cry. If you had the opportunity to re-write the ending to some of your memories - knowing full well that you would never see the memory again - wouldn't you?

For me in particular, the movie had an unexpected side-effect. In the beginning, Joel and Clementine bump into each other - again - as it turns out. And while he's a little reserved and cautious, she's just so wild, energetic and impulsive and he finds himself falling in love and doing things he wouldn't ordinarily do. So guess what? After the movie, I ended up being impulsive too. I dropped by Swissotel to say hi to a certain someone attending a wedding dinner there, never mind that the cinema's located a 15 minute walk away from my house and I had to walk 45 minutes back from the hotel to get home.

In short, it's a fantastic movie. I'd love to see it again. It's one of those movies which you need to get on DVD just so you can appreciate it again and again and again.

Favourite quotes

Joel: Why do I fall in love with every woman I see that shows me the least bit of attention?

Clementine: I don't like nice. I don't like people being it at me, and I don't like being it at people.

Joel: Is there any risk of brain damage?
Howard: Well, technically speaking, the operation is brain damage.

Clementine: Joel, I'm not a concept. Too many guys think I'm a concept or I complete them or I'm going to make them alive, but I'm just a fucked up girl who is looking for my own peace of mind. Don't assign me yours.
Joel: I remember that speech really well.
Clementine: I had you pegged, didn't I?
Joel: You had the whole human race pegged.
Clementine: Probably.
Joel: I still thought you were going to save me. Even after that.

Clementine: This is it, Joel. It's going to be gone soon.
Joel: I know.
Clementine: What do we do?
Joel: Enjoy it.

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