Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind ★★★

This really would be better as a featurette. It's so disappointing to see Kaufman and Gondry focus more on plot and story than feeling. The inclusion of Paaaaaaatrick is probably the best example. The only possibly interesting direction the movie could have taken with him is a high-concept one, exploring the fact that his scummy plan fails due to some nagging little tick in Clementine's head- and while they do suggest that a bit, the film mostly sticks to painting Patrick as pathetic with extremely broad strokes, which is okay I guess, but he also serves as some sort of "antagonist" to Joel. Seeing Carrey scream about how "he's using the things I did to seduce Clem!" in his 'protagonist vs. problem' way had me shaking my head, wondering why the hell the filmmakers thought this was relevant. Relevance! God, that part, where Memory Clementine (Clemory) convinces Joel to tuck her away in shameful or hidden memories so that she will be hard to find was painful. Gondry and Kaufman had so much "fun" with imaging Jim Carrey as a baby or going for a masturbation joke but all it did was keep me from feeling the flow. Some moment were effective (hammer -> bird :( ) but still disconnected. I pined for a movie more concerned with experientiality and pure emotion, like Resnais's Je T'Aime, Je T'Aime.

Even the plotty elements that don't feel out of place, like the revelation about Mary and Howard, feel underwhelming because Kaufman seems content with the role it serves for convincing us about the events of the finale between Joel and Clementine, but not really interested in the emotional implications. I really would have loved to hear the entirety of that tape.

But of course there were many moments that worked. When the movie shut up for a second and displayed the painful arguments between Clemory and Joel, or that shot where Howard resedates a crying Joel, or that shot where Clemory is yanked from the frozen lake memory into silence and darkness. That last one is a display of this movie's best trait, a total reverence for memory itself- the places, the faces, the gifts and trinkets, the color of hair, the crampdness of a hallway. And the sounds! Jon Brion (as always) knocks it out of the park with his score, as do all the sound engineers. Sometimes these things are a little corny (like Clem walking with one leg), sometimes they're no more than exciting film tricks (Joel walking straight down a street only to find the corner he started from), sometimes they're creepy and trippy (all the fucked up erased faces), but most of the time the film seems to eager to compare the lighting of this argument in this room to the lighting of this game on this beach, the texture of this couch where this icy interaction took place to the texture of the blanket where Clemory talks about a little doll she used to bully herself about being ugly. It saves the movie from feeling totally shallow. There's obviously a spirit here of valuing the good and the bad on some level (never taking that ideology too far, thankfully), and being grateful for the ability to reminisce and have moments with other people we can look back and use to connect with our own identity. Truly wonderful. I wish more of the film was like that.

Seanzie "No More Time for Movies or Sleep" liked this review