Technically Speaking, the Operation IS Brain Damage
Today’s movie came as a suggestion from a coworker named Eric. When he suggested this movie, I found myself getting a little worried because, though this movie stars one of my favorite actors, it’s a total artsy fartsy movie. I generally hate artsy fartsy movies. And what made it worse (and perhaps a little apt) was that I have seen this movie before, I own this movie on DVD, but I really don’t remember anything about it beyond the fact that one of the actresses has blue hair in it. I’m going into this movie fresh because I don’t remember anything about it, but trepidatious because I don’t remember liking it. Let’s see what I think now in my review of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, co-written by Charlie Kaufman, co-written and directed by Michel Gondry, and starring Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Tom Wilkinson, Kirsten Dunst, Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo, David Cross, Jane Adams, and Deirdre O’Connell.
Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) wakes up one day in a mood. A mood that is not helped when he goes downstairs and realizes his car has, inexplicably, been damaged. He decides at random that he’d liked to ditch work and go to Montauk. Here, he meets a lady with blue hair named Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet). At first, the emotionally withdrawn and nervous Joel is put off by Clementine’s free spirit, but she pretty much forces him into a relationship with her. As he waits for her to come out of her apartment, Patrick Wertz (Elijah Wood) knocks on his window and asks what he’s doing there. We start to unravel that Joel and Clem had once been in a two year relationship with each other, but had a messy break up. So messy, in fact, that Clem decided she wanted to have her memory of Joel erased completely. Joel hastily elects to undergo the same procedure, going to Lacuna, Inc and meeting receptionist Mary Svevo (Kirsten Dunst), Doctor Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson), and technician Stan Fink (Mark Ruffalo). Joel starts undergoing the procedure and we watch him walk through his quickly disappearing memories, but he starts regretting his decision to forget Clem and tries to fight it, but he can’t because he’s asleep.
Though I find it very appropriate that I forgot everything about this movie, I wonder why I did. I actually kind of liked this movie even though it included many things I hate in movies. I’m not a fan of artsy movies because I think they mostly like to be confusing and absurd in order to claim they are meaningful. I don’t like movies that confuse me because it’s usually a sign of piss-poor writing. And, above all, I don’t like movies where Jim Carrey isn’t raucously funny throughout! But this movie is pretty touching, even for a guy with little to no experience in what the movie is about. The only time I’ve ever broken up with someone was a joyous occasion for me, but the story is a concept that normal people (who don’t consider their Xbox their girlfriend) have experience with: wishing you could forget someone you once loved. The movie starts off a little bit grating, before you realize why the movie is being conducted in the manner it is, with it’s quick cuts and constant blur over the movie, but when you find out that they underwent this memory loss procedure, it kind of makes sense. The fact that the middle part of the story was told in flashback (with no real indication that it was a flashback), did make the story a little hard to follow for me. It only becomes really clear around the end of the movie why it started with the beginning of their relationship and instantly jumped to the end. And all the little flashbacks within the bigger flashback did start to make me lose track of where I was in the story. It did manage to bring it all together so that I knew what was happening by the end.
The effects of this movie were pretty trippy, but also pretty interesting. When we were inside Jim Carrey’s memories, they reminded us of our location and showed us how these memories were dissolving around us. Jim Carrey would walk seamlessly from a book store into his friends’ living room with no discernible cut, he would be following Kate Winslet towards the bathroom and she would suddenly be in the kitchen, people’s faces would be missing, scenery would be disappearing behind him as he ran away from it, and then other memories would just be downright warped, like turning Elijah Wood’s eyes upside down on his head. A little disconcerting? Sure, but the effects told a story in and of themselves by showing what was happening to his memories.
The performances were one of the best parts to this movie. Though I prefer my Jim Carrey’s to come in Ace Ventura-like forms, I understand his need to do a more reserved, emotional role every now and then. Actor’s don’t like to be typecast, even if it’s for doing something you’re amazing at. Though I found her character to be pretty tedious, I didn’t blame Kate Winslet. I know she’s a good actress, but that character was just written to be the type of person I don’t ever want to be around. She gets all up in Jim Carrey’s Kool-Aid on the train, and they don’t even know each other. I’m too nice to tell her to fuck off, but she would’ve worked on my nerves by getting into my business, and then overreacting and jumping down my throat because I said “nice” too much. Well go back to YOUR seat then, bitch! Also, just because you’ve decided to call yourself an impulsive, free spirit does not give you cause to use that as an excuse for being a twat. But, again, I was annoyed by the character and not the actress. Winslet pulled off some great moments of manic-depression as her memory loss procedure hadn’t gone too well. She’d be crying one second, then happy the next, as if she didn’t remember what she was supposed to be feeling at the moment, and she pulled it off very well.
I didn’t love this movie, but I found myself pretty fond of it. The story is good and relatable, but gets kind of confusing in the flashbacks and double flashbacks. The effects of the movie are well done and do their part to tell the story instead of being there instead of having a story, but some of them were kind of off-putting. And the performances were all very well executed, but I know I would’ve hated that Clementine. I own this movie, so I didn’t bother checking to see if you could stream it or not, but I do assume it’s available to rent on Netflix. I don’t feel confident in saying that everyone will like this movie, especially as I apparently only half liked it myself. I found it to be a pretty interesting (albeit confusing) story about the moments that happen right after love with good meaning, and it was pretty endearing. I will recommend you at least give it a shot. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind gets “It’s going to be gone soon. What do we do?” out of “Enjoy it”.
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