Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

  • Title:  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • Director:  Michel Gondry
  • Date:  2004
  • Studio:  Focus Features
  • Genre:  Romance, SF, Drama
  • Cast:  Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst, Tom Wilkinson
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“My embarrassing admission is that I really like that you’re nice. Right now, I mean, I can’t tell from one moment to the next what I’m going to like, but, right now, I’m glad you are.” – Clementine

“Technically speaking, the procedure is brain damage, but its, its on a par with a night of heavy drinking.” – Dr. Howard Mierzwiak 

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind  is not your typical romantic comedy – it isn’t even a typical film in the rarer genre of romantic tragedy. The film starts with Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) waking up, heading off to work, then playing hooky and taking the train to a beachside community in the middle of Winter, to be precise, on Valentine’s Day.  He runs into a strange girl with bright blue hair, named Clementine, and the two start to hit it off. However, the film then diverges off into unusual and different territory. Joel discovers that Clementine, his girlfriend of two years, had him erased from her memory. Joel, in a pique of anger then decides to erase her from his memory.

However, the film doesn’t tell this story linearly. We see Joel going to the Lucuna Clinic to have Clementine erased. He explains why he wants to forget her. He looks at objects from their relationship (mementos, gifts, etc) and thinks about his memories of her while undergoing CAT Scans to map his memory. That night he takes a sleeping pill. Three people from the Lucuna Clinic arrive at his apartment to erase his memory – Stan, Patrick, and Mary. However, they do not act like medical professionals, but rather like irresponsible party guys (and gal). While Stan’s laptop computer performs the procedure – they drink, and do drugs. Patrick leaves pretty quickly so he can see his girlfriend – Clementine. Stan and Mary get even more drunk and stoned, and before long Mary’s dancing on Joel’s bed in her underwear.  Eventually, both Stan and Mary are dancing in their underwear.

Meanwhile, in a series of flashbacks, as Joel is undergoing the procedure – he remembers the times, the moments, he’s spent with Clementine. He eventually realizes just how good some of those moments were – and tries to keep them. But the procedure works too well, and the audience sees scenes disappear piece by piece, or fade out of existence, or break apart in a pixelated fashion, or turn dark as if the lights were being turned off. The unusual effects heighten the strangeness of the film, but they also visually express Joel losing his memories. As the memories disappear, and Joel gets to his good memories with Clem, he realizes he doesn’t want to forget. He and Clem try to outsmart the procedure by hiding in Joel’s childhood memories – including some of his earliest memories.

At this point, the film flashes back to Joel having the procedure done – where Stan freaks out because “he’s off the map.” Joel calls in Howard (Dr. Mierzwiak) who gets the procedure back on track. However, Mary – who’s still stoned, hits on Howard and even kisses him. Outside, Howard’s wife watches. Howard finds out about this – as Mary tries to explain it was meaningless – Howard’s wife tells her that she and Howard did have an affair, but he performed the procedure on her to make her forget.

Eventually, all of Joel’s memories of Clementine disappear – but as he gets to the memory of the first time they met, a time when Joel walked out, Clem suggests he change what happened and make a new memory. We then flash-forward to the beginning of the film and Joel’s compulsion to go to the beach in the middle of Winter, on Valentine’s Day – where he meets Clem.

But this is not the end of the story. Because as Clem heads into her apt to pick up her toothbrush so she can spend the night with Joel (whom she’s “just met”) she find a letter from Mary, with a copy of her file and a tape of her conversation with the Doctor about why she wants to forget Joel. She starts the tape playing in the cassette player of his car – and he freaks out, accusing her of messing with him. But when he gets home, he find another letter and cassette from Mary for him. He starts to listen to the tape – when Clem arrives. Clem gets so angry at the things he says, she leaves – but Joel pursues her. In the hallway, Clem says they should forget it – bringing up the reasons why their relationship won’t work again. But Joel seems to think they should try anyway.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind  is a forerunner of films like Inception – especially in terms of the effects used to show Joel’s memories being destroyed. It has a very non-linear style – I’ve re-organized the story more linearly in this review, but when you are watching the film it slips easily back and forth between the “present” as Stan, Patrick, Mary, and later Howard work on Joel in his bedroom – and Joel’s scattered memories of his relationship with Clementine. The story is gradually built up in pieces until the audience understands exactly what it going on – it’s a very intelligent film. It asks intelligent questions, If you could completely forget someone – wipe them from your mind, would you? And, there are implications too – What if such a procedure was done without your permission? (The film gets into that briefly – when it’s made clear that although Howard pressured her into it – Mary did give verbal permission for the procedure.) But the film is also about the way relationships twist over time – although Joel’s early (meaning late – or most recent) memories of Clem are of fights and disagreements – his late (meaning earliest) memories are sweet and lovely – and those memories he fights to keep but fails. There are other tiny bits as well – the woman in the clinic with a dog bowl, leash, and such for example. Mary arguing with a woman on the phone that she can’t have the procedure done three times (in a short period is implied). And even the idea of destiny in a relationship.

Jim Carrey is very reserved and quiet as Joel. Even when he and Clem are fighting – he barely raises his voice. He’s very closed off as well. It’s an understated performance, the complete opposite of Carrey’s normal comedic roles – and it shows what a truly great actor he is. Kate Winslet plays Clementine as a free spirit but a bit dumb. Elijah Wood as Patrick is slimy as one of the med techs working on Joel – he admits to Stan he fell in love with Clem when she he erased her mind – and he even stole her panties. Patrick also used Joel’s journal and other mementos of his relationship with Clem (gifts, jewelry, etc) in an attempt to win her over.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind  is a excellent and original film and I recommend it.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Justice League:  Throne of Atlantis

The Full Monty

  • Title:  The Full Monty
  • Director:  Peter Cattaneo
  • Date:  1997
  • Studio:  20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures
  • Genre:  Comedy, Drama
  • Cast:  Robert Carlyle, Tom Wilkinson, Mark Addy
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“When women start pissing like us, that’s it, we finished, Dave, extincto.”  – Gaz

“I like you. I love you, you bugger.”  – Gaz, to his son, Nathan

“And they won’t say nought about your personality, neither, which is good, ’cause your basically a b…..d.”  — Dave

The Full Monty took the upper Midwest by storm, much to the shock of Hollywood and perhaps even the film’s makers. First released as an “art house” film — it became a blockbuster in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio, and probably other “rust belt” states as well. Critics praised the film and it moved from “art house” slots to main theater venues. I saw the film when it came out and I remember how excited the crowd was. But, the thing is, the success of the movie had to do with the fact that audiences in the Midwest, in steel towns and auto manufacturing towns could identify with the story.

The Full Monty isn’t really about stripping. It’s a film about a group of unemployed steel workers. The film opens with a promotional film about Sheffield, in England, a place that is attracting workers, full of attractions and night life, and is built on steel. Then, comes the caption, 25 years later, and the film starts in earnest. The mills are shut down, most everybody is unemployed, and the few who have found jobs are working low income service jobs, such as security guards at the local superstore or at the abandoned plant.

One night the Chippendale male dancers come to town and perform for one night only at a women’s only night at the local “workingman’s pub”. Gaz is disgusted he can’t go in for a drink, but when his pal Dave tells him his wife’s inside, Gaz decides to pull her out by sneaking in through the bathroom window. Dave is to accompany him but can’t get through the window. Just as Gaz and his son are heading into the pub, three women come into the men’s room. Gaz hides, and watches as they check their make-up and chat. When he sees one of the girls stand and pee in the urinal (something she learned at “girl guides” she says), Gaz is shocked. The next day at Job Club, the unemployment center, he’s complaining about how useless he feels.

The men are poking fun at the Chippendales, when someone points out how much money the one night made. And Gaz comes up with a plan — getting his mates together as their own “Hot Metal” strippers. No one seems to take his idea seriously, but when his ex-wife and her new husband threaten to sue for sole custody of his son unless he comes up with £700 pounds, Gaz becomes more and more persuasive. He holds try-outs, but only gets one guy that way. He sees his old boss, whom he doesn’t get on with, at a ballroom and recruits him. But mostly, it Gaz, his friend, Dave, and guys from Job Club. In total, the six men decide to teach themselves how to dance, and find a venue so they can make their money.

But again, the heart of the movie isn’t in the stripping. And it’s not the “humor” of a group of overweight, too old, or too skinny steel workers becoming male strippers. The tale is in the people, and the little moments of characterization. Gaz and Dave are walking along and they find a guy, sitting in a car, that’s not working. Dave gets the car started, failing to notice the hose running from the tailpipe inside the car. The guy inside rolls up his window, Dave walks back to Gaz – then notices, and pulls the guy out of the car. At one point he argues with him, throws him back in, then pulls him out.  The guy ends up being one of the six.

It’s moments like Gerald, Gaz’s boss, who goes to Job Club every day because he hasn’t told his wife that he lost his job. She finds out when everything, including the house is repossessed, and she throws him out — the same day he received the notice that he’d got the job he applied for at a different factory.

Even Gaz’s story is about his need to continue to see his son, rather than just trying to make some money.

But the film is also very funny, with great music, which prevents the dire situation of the characters from being too much.  And, again, plant closures, families torn apart, increases in crime, desperation, are all themes anyone from a one industry town like Detroit, Cleveland, or Pittsburgh of the 1970s can identify with.  But the humor prevents it from becoming too much.  In a sense it’s a film that asks, “What if?” as well as “What would you do?”

In the end, despite a near arrest, and various problems, the six men all go on stage and strip. And, as they promised, they do “go for it” and bare it all (tastefully shown from the back). But it’s the characters that make the film. Though the freeze frame at the end is really a brilliant way to end the film.

Fair warning – like Billy Elliot and The Commitments this film has plenty of swearing and blue language. It’s not for young children for that reason. It’s a film for adults, but not in the sexy sense.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  4 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Galaxy Quest