“How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot. The world forgetting, by the world forgot. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind. Each prayer accepted and each wish resigned”
Just in case you were wondering where the title comes from, it is lifted from that quote by Alexander Pope which is also quoted in the film itself by one of the characters. Today we are visiting the curious world of the romantic thriller that has a bit of sci-fi sprinkled in as well. It also has Jim Carrey in one of his more serious roles, showing the world that he can actually act when he isn’t pretending to be a complete ham and buffoon on camera. And on we go...
Carrey plays Joel Barish, an introverted and cautious guy who seems drawn to this other girl he meets on the train. Her name is Clementine, and she is the complete opposite to Joel in that she’s loud, exciting and a little bit crazy. She also seems to have a thing with changing her hair colour all the time. Despite their hugely contrasting personalities the two of them hit it off straight away and start going on dates. We get a bit of a jolt when the film flashes back to a few days ago and drops a bombshell on us – Joel and Clementine have been seeing each other for quite a while but have been quite rocky recently. Somehow Clementine got into contact with a company called Lacuna Inc who erased Joel completely from her memory. In an act of spite, Joel opts to have the same procedure done and so the rest of the film is made up of a trip through his mind and memories where he remembers exactly why he fell for Clementine, and he realises he’d rather not forget his memories.
This film was a bit confusing and jarring for me to watch at first. Indeed the first twenty or so minutes will confuse first time viewers but it’s easy to catch on from there. The film starts off after Joel has had the procedure done and he meets Clementine again. Then it goes back to when Joel is actually having the procedure done and we go through his memories while cutting to and from the doctors performing the procedure on him. Then we go right back to where the film started and we follow a normal timeline from then on.
I really love the way the film takes us through Joel’s mind and memories, especially the way they are all imagined such as Joel witnessing his memories as well as being able to interact with them and indeed with Clementine herself. It also imagines and portrays the memory-wiping process itself in a pretty fascinating way, such as when Joel revisits memories that have already been erased such as meeting the doctors and their faces have been blurred out. I’ve always had a liking for surreal films (and indeed TV episodes) that explore trips through the mind and memories because the results are always so creative (see Buffy’s “Restless” and Charmed “The Jung and the Restless”). It’s a pretty fascinating story device to see Joel and Clementine’s relationship in reverse, seeing them fighting and grumpy at first and then slowly becoming happier in their relationship. What’s more curious is that it’s showing how they fell out of love since the movie is set after the “honeymoon period” in the relationship is over. Apparently the director also allowed a lot of room for improvising lines and stage directions with a lot of the scenes. I don’t know exactly which scenes had this but I think it did help the film out a lot in any case.
As I said in the introduction, Jim Carrey is pretty unique in this considering that some of his other serious roles (such as The Number 23) have him still playing a similar type of character to the one he normally plays. Joel however is completely different to any of those other roles and shows that Carrey can do drama really well with the best of them. Joel is a pretty interesting character and one of the more subtle character growths that he goes through is that he’s known to be quiet and introverted, keeping a journal and not opening up to Clementine. During the procedure however, in an effort to save his memories, he takes her to all the places in his mind he had been keeping bottled up and hidden. He therefore opens up to her to try and save their relationship. Kate Winslett plays Clementine and we can see that the two roles are swapped around versions of the usual ones both her and Carrey play, since she is effectively playing a Carrey-type character. I enjoyed her performance and her American accent was much better than it was in Titanic (not that it wasn’t good, it just sounded more natural here). It’s fun to see Kate playing a quirky character and I’d like to see her playing more of those in the future.
In addition to the two leads, we also have an impressive set of second-stringers such as Tom Wilkinson playing Howard, the head of Lacuna Inc. I think he’s a good actor and he naturally gives a nice performance (yes, Clementine, I used the word “nice”, don’t shoot me). Mark Ruffalo and Elijah Wood play other members of Lacuna Inc and are pretty fun to watch as the “nerds” for lack of a better term. It’s also a bit against type for Elijah Wood too to be playing a shallow pervy douchebag. But the big honours for the supporting cast have to go to Kirsten Dunst, who plays Mary the receptionist. She is wonderfully entertaining and this is one of the rare roles where I don’t see her as Kirsten. I see her and I think Mary because she seems like a believable character. She’s also hilarious in the part where she’s been high and she’s trying to cover it up in front of Howard. Her character’s subplot is pretty interesting as well, but I won’t spoil it for you.
I enjoyed pretty much all the scenes in Joel’s memories but I enjoy the parts where he’s trying to take Clementine through his mind and hide her away, such as taking her to his childhood where he is about four years old and she ends up playing his babysitter. It’s funny to see an adult Jim Carrey as a midget hiding under the table while Clementine stumbles around fully grown trying to act like the babysitter. Another hilarious scene is a memory where Joel’s mother catches him...you know...and Clementine’s reaction is priceless. There are a lot of other nice scenes in the memories such as a carnival happening in the street which was actually added in at the last minute; the director saw the carnival happening and just grabbed a couple of cameras to shoot the scene. The result is one of the happier moments in the movie. Also nice to watch is the first time Joel and Clementine meet, the way they both go from fully living it out to talking about the memory itself between each other. The line “why don’t you stay this time?” is pretty powerful in my opinion.
So yeah a Jim Carrey movie managed to make it to my list. I’m not sure but this might be the first Kate Winslett flick as well. She doesn’t really do the kind of films I like to watch much. This film actually won a well deserved Academy Award for Best Screenplay and has gotten a lot of good recognition over the years, which everyone wants to see for a film they enjoy. This film manages to be funny, poignant and moving as well as being a little bit scary. I mean, it’s not that the doctor won’t stop doing the procedure. It’s just that Joel can’t tell him to stop. But enough doom and gloom for today, fellas. Normally I’d try to shoehorn in some kind of pun relating to the movie of choice but I think don’t forget to follow me on Twitter does that just fine for this particular movie. Take care, Bobby-verse.