Plot: What’s it about?
“How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d.”
Another brainchild of Writer Charlie Kaufman is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Kaufman has given us some of the more thought-provoking movies in the last few years like Being John Malkovich, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Adaptation. More importantly, it stars Jim Carrey in a return to his more dramatic side. Like Robin Williams before him, he’s a great comedic actor who can also do drama, but hasn’t ever received a nod by the Academy (even a nomination) that he years for so badly. Carrey has shown his acting chops in films like The Truman Show, Man in the Moon and to a lesser extent in The Majestic to much acclaim. Then again, he can don a green suit and become “The Grinch” or even play God with little help from movie special effects. Imagine that. There must be something inherent in Carrey that makes him want to make us cry, because he can certainly make us laugh. What’s that old saying…”Dying is easy, comedy is hard”? Tell that to Jim Carrey.
The film doesn’t really follow a linear timeline, it doubles back on itself a few times so as not to keep us guessing, but to show what’s going on inside the mind of one seemingly normal man. Carrey plays Joel Barrish, an introvert who communicates better by scribbling in his journal that with the power of the spoken word. Ditching work one day, he heads off to Montack Beach (in February no less) only to meet a stranger by the name of Clementine (Kate Winslet). The two hit it off in their own way and the next thing we know, Joel has been informed that she’s had him “erased” from her memory. A company called Lacuna, Inc. that specializes in just that – erasing memories of loved and/or lost ones. Joel finds out that he’s been erased from Clementine’s memory (so to her, “they” never happened) and to exact revenge he decides to have the same thing done. And so it goes…to a point. Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson) and his team (played by Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood and Kirsten Dunst) go to work on erasing his memories of Clementine only for Joel to discover that he doesn’t want to have the procedure done. He wants to squirrel away some of the memories as he starts to discover (on a subconscious level, no less) although things ended badly, he still wants his memories of Clementine.
The film raises a moral question of the sanctity of our own memories. Assuming the technology was readily available to have someone or something in your life erased – like it never existed – would you do it? It provides an easy escape for someone who’s just been dumped, fired or lost that special someone. But the flip side to this coin is this: do all memories, good and bad, serve a greater purpose? That’s to say: what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger? There’s no right answer, of course, but the movie stimulates the viewer to ponder the situation and that’s the point. Carrey and Winslet both turn in stellar performances here. Carrey and Winslet are an “odd couple”, to be sure, but both seem right at home here. About the only thing that really brings the film down is a sub plot concerning Dunst’s character and her relationship with Dr. Mierzwiak. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a provocative movie that makes the viewer think and more importantly, feel. These are everyday characters going through what each and every one of us has either gone through or will go through. The only difference is that they have the choice to do something about it. The issue the movie suggests is…would we?
Video: How does it look?
It’s been a while since I sat down and watched this. To put it in perspective it was when it came out on HD DVD. Technology has changed and we’re now seeing this modern masterpiece in 4K. Looking at the image, it does show an improvement over the previous versions. There’s still a fine layer of grain, but by and large, the image appears cleaner and a bit more refined. The 1.85:1 HEVC 4K image is a bit on the desaturated side. There aren’t rosy red cheeks and deep blue skies, rather somewhat bland skies and almost pasty white faces. That’s not bad, per se, and it’s not a fault of the transfer – it’s just how the movie was filmed. It’s a satisfying jump in video quality and easily the best the film has ever looked on a disc format.
Audio: How does it sound?
The same DTS HD Master Audio mix found on previous versions is present here as well. I don’t know if a Dolby Atmos mix would really be “worth it” though I’m in the camp that if it’s possible, then why not add one? There are some notable differences, mainly in the scene where it does a 360 degree spin around Elijah Wood’s character. Vocals are still strong and consistent, but there just seems to be a deeper feel and tone to this soundtrack. Granted this isn’t a night and day difference, they’re subtle nuances, but this it’s hard to go wrong in terms of audio quality.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The two disc set finds most of the supplements on the included Blu-ray with only the audio commentary found on the 4K disc.
Disc One (4K)
- Audio Commentary – Writer Charlie Kaufman and Director Michel Gondry. It’s a rather interesting track, but I found myself listening to Kaufman’s voice more so than Gondry’s mainly due to his thick French accent (hard to understand, you know). Of note, this is found under the setup menu.
Disc Two (Blu-ray)
- Audio Commentary – Writer Charlie Kaufman and Director Michel Gondry. It’s a rather interesting track, but I found myself listening to Kaufman’s voice more so than Gondry’s mainly due to his thick French accent (hard to understand, you know).
- Memory Light: Interview with Cinematographer Ellen Kuras – This kind of piggybacks on the conversation with Gondry (below), but we do get some insight as to how (and why) some of the scenes were shot the way they were and so forth.
- A Look Inside Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Essentially the cast talking about the film and their respective roles within.
- A Conversation with Jim Carrey and Michael Gondry – A buzz-cut Jim Carrey out of his character gives a lively explanation of the film and what drew him to it. Gondry assists with some additional information.
- A Conversation with Kate Winslet and Michael Gondry – Essentially the same thing, but swap out Carrey for Winslet.
- Inside the Mind of Director Michael Gondry – This one is pretty good if for no other reason than we get inside his head to see how he does a lot of the practical effects with the camera.
- Anatomy of a Scene: Saratoga Avenue –
- Deleted and Extended Scenes – Nearly 30 minutes’ worth are included, but are a bit difficult to navigate through due to them being all in one long segment. Of note Ellen Pompeo was absent in the final film, but we do see her her as Joel’s ex-girlfriend Naomi.
- Music Video – “Light & Day” by Polyphonic Spree
- Lucana Infomercial – Essentially that – a “real” infomercial for the company that performs the removal. At one time they had a fully functional website as well, but that appears to not be the case anymore.
- Trailers – Two for this film, Jude and Man on the Moon.
The Bottom Line
Rejection sucks. We’ve all been there. The question this movie begs is how we handle it. Are we truly happy if we remove all of our bad memories or do those memories make us who we are and define us as people? A one-two viewing of this and 500 Days of Summer might be a great (or a really bad) idea. Nevertheless, it’s nice to have this film in 4K looking much better than it ever has.