Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Special Edition

January 28, 2012 12 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” is yet another brainchild of Writer Charlie Kaufman. 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 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. You see, there’s 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?

The movie is shown in an anamorphic 1.85:1 image that really looks quite good. To put it in comparison with some other movies of the genre, “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation”, it looks on par with those. There are scenes of utter clarity that I thought I was looking in a mirror and some of the scenes tended to be presented in a more “grainy” look – though I think it was intended that way as opposed to any fault of the transfer. The colors are very muted as the story takes place in Winter and very few really bright colors are shown (except Clementine’s hair and sweatshirt, of course). This is a good-looking transfer and I believe it looks as good as it could being a new to DVD release.

Audio: How does it sound?

As is almost the standard with most Universal releases, “Eternal Sunshine…” is equipped with both a DTS track and a Dolby Digital track. And, as is usually the case, the DTS comes away the winner though the Dolby Digital certainly isn’t bad. There are a lot of very subtle effects throughout the movie and the DTS track replicates them flawlessly. Dialogue, of which this movie has a lot, sounds very clean and ambient throughout. There aren’t many times in which the soundtrack gets to shine, but some of the outdoor shots toward the end do sound pretty dynamic. Like other movies of this nature, the action is in the words and the sound – for lack of a better word – might as well be a state of mind.

Supplements: What are the extras?

There’s one thing about DVD that really pisses me off (and as someone who doesn’t even pay for 98% of the DVD’s I own, I imagine that consumers should be even more hot) and that’s the “Double Dipping” by studios. This consists of either a) Issuing a new “Special Edition” after a disc has already been released (granted, in some cases it’s warranted like “The Lost Boys” or “GoodFellas”) or b) selling different discs of Widescreen and Full-Frame DVD’s. One of the original selling points of DVD was that both versions would be included on the same disc. I understand it’s all about how much more money the studios can make, but as someone in a position to speak for those who can’t – I am. Ok, that said the first disc is identical to the previously released disc (and by “Previously Released” I mean it streeted 3 months before this).

“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” comes equipped with just enough supplements to keep us occupied (without overkill, of course). The standard forced previews are shown (with Focus features tooting their own horn about how good their movies are – yay) with a rather dull introduction screen. We get two featurettes, the first is “A Look Inside Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” which consists of the actors talking of their work on the movie, etc. Next is a conversation with Michel Gondry (Director) and Jim Carrey. Carrey seems to be back to his usual spunky self – essentially the polar opposite of his character in the film. Next up is the commentary track with Writer Charlie Kaufman and Director Michel Gondry. It’s a rather interesting track, but I found myself listening to Kaufman’s voice moreso than Gondry’s mainly due to his thick French accent (hard to understand, you know). A music video by Polyphonic Spree is included (and it’s rather odd at that) as are some deleted scenes. Lastly, we find a commercial for Lacuna, Inc. which also features a fully-functional website

There is new material in this two disc edition, though it essentially mirrors the content on the first disc. Universal originally offered this as a Two Disc Special Edition, but the second disc was supposed to be the soundtrack. That didn’t sit too well with fans and here’s what is offered. First, there’s a featurette entitled “Inside the Mind of Michel Gondry” in which the cast and crew talk about how visionary their esteemed director is. There are some behind the scenes clips, but Carrey seems pretty enthralled here at the very least! Next up is “Anatomy of a Scene: Saratoga Avenue”. This is a very well-produced clip and the “Anatomy…Scene” snippets have turned up on other DVD’s as well. This focuses only on the one scene and by the director’s admission – they didn’t really know what was going on. There is a Conversation with Michel Gondry and Kate Winslet which is essentially the same as the conversation between he and Carrey on the first disc. Not a lot of new information is learned here, but it’s nice to have nonetheless. There are some deleted/extended scenes, but it’s hard to tell them apart. There’s no menu telling when they start and begin and no commentary by the director to tell us why they were cut. There is also a farily easily accessible “Easter Egg” in which you’ll find about a 20 second movie clip done by Joel Barish (Carrey’s character in the film). Also, a very nice booklet is included with scenes from the movie, dialogue and about a dozen “Rave” reviews from the nation’s leading film critics (I guess they overlooked DVD Authority)! Suffice it to say that if you didn’t get the disc the first time around, this is the way to go – but this doesn’t offer the amount of supplements to buy again. Clearly Universal is just trying to cash in on this before the Oscar season, as I’m sure it will get nominated (and perhaps win) for some. This is an above average DVD of one of the year’s best, and most original, movies.

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