“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” starts slow, and with too much dialogue, but have faith in its script-handlers. By the middle of the movie, the beginning has become the end — but not the very end, of course. The very end too ends very well. As screenwriter Kaufman says in “Adaptation,” a good movie goes out with a bang. His latest story, “Eternal Sunshine,” brings the brass at the end too. Thanks to the direction of Michel Gondry, this movie taps the cymbals with a lovely, light wrist. (Kaufman and Gondry have worked together before and produced “Human Nature”.) “Eternal Sunshine” ends like a perfect song. Walk out with a fist of its stardust.
Jim Carrey plays Joel Barish, the protagonist. He falls in and out of love with Clementine (Kate Winslet with boldly colored hair). The actors nuance their roles finely — Carrey endows Joel with a boyish manhood, while Winslet instills womanly girlhood in Clementine. They match terribly well. There goes the story in brief. The twister in this tried formula exists in the form of Lacuna Inc. — a dentist’s office of memory erasure. Kaufman again makes oddity fun.
Clementine and Joel — her at an impulse and him out of spite –erase their two-year romance from their memories. Yet they draw back together. Mary (Kirsten Dunst), the secretary at Lacuna, also knits back her own erased relationship. Despite these dismissals of the past, what’s forgotten pulls back like pins to a magnet. Even though the mind no longer knows the holes for these pins to penetrate, a force still makes them cling back together.
Gondry fastens images perfectly to the emotions of the script. As Joel undergoes his erasure process, Gondry traces his last dreamings of Clementine. Anything involving the past promises nostalgia, but have you ever imagined it like this? Details evaporate in pace with the zapping of memory. Books lose their titles before whole rows disappear. The seashore invades the floor of one Montauk beach house before its final ruin. Each frame of this film deserves its own frame.
This movie expresses an interest in the pattern of people’s lives — an endless possibility of poses from which to mimic the same actions. It fits well with Gondry’s sensibility as a music director. (He has made a fantastic collection for Bjork, the White Stripes, Beck and others.) His video for Kylie Minogue shows her spin around the block in as many as four simultaneous incarnations. With “Eternal Sunshine” Gondry attaches an urgency to repetition.
Eternal Sunshine shades a very clever illustration of fate. Its quoting of Neitzsche invokes the philosopher’s thinking about life as a series of repeat reincarnations. Here his theory applies within singular lifetimes. After Lacuna’s patients erase their consciousness of a relationship, it proves like a death of that relationship within their lifetime. But these reassertions of dismissed relationships model how lives spin — in repetitions.
“Eternal Sunshine” hums and it hugs. It has both ethereality and love-handles. If the movie projector could personify as well, it might want to date “Eternal Sunshine.” This one stars all of the right qualities about magic films: perfect movie tricks dissolve into romance — movie love. The screen silvers for it.