Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
I watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind today on Netflix. I decided to watch it because of this Polyphonic Spree song “Light & Day” which isn’t actually in the movie, but is in the soundtrack. Oh well, I’m glad I watched it because I have a new favourite rom-com.
Strictly speaking calling Eternal Sunshine a rom-com is a bit of a stretch. Sure, it’s got the “boy meets girl” element and there are moments which made me laugh (Jim Carrey… he’s my lobster), but it’s more of a really dramatic science fiction film with elements of psychological thriller.
Still, I’m including it as a rom-com because the film has just so much heart. And it does a fantastic job handling the rom, even if the com part was probably unintended. Until now, my favourite rom-com had always been (since ‘09, of course) (500) Days of Summer but I honestly think Eternal Sunshine has knocked it off the top of my list.
The two films actually have quite a bit in common. Both are told in a nonlinear style, so as to deliberately annoy those unfamiliar with indie flicks. Both feature a male protagonist (from whose perspective the story is told) who is brooding and “lacking something.”
Then, the two films diverge. Eternal Sunshine knocks down the “manic pixie dream girl” trope which Zooey Deschanel has become known for playing. Clementine, played by Kate Winslet (whom I don’t like in anything but this and Titanic), breaks down the MPDG trope eloquently with “Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive. But I’m just a fucked-up girl who’s lookin’ for my own peace of mind; don’t assign me yours."
The two films end with completely different messages, too. In Eternal Sunshine, Clem and Joel get back together after accepting the other’s critiques of them as flaws they can move past. In (500), the film ends with
Jess Summer talking to Tom about how she’s discovered all the feelings she wasn’t sure about with Tom.
One of the reasons I particularly like Eternal Sunshine is the awesome ensemble cast, whose role is expanded upon through the film. Elijah Wood, everybody’s favourite Hobbit, appears as Patrick, who unethically uses his knowledge to seduce Clementine. Mark Ruffalo, of Hulk-y fame, has a profound but somewhat disappointingly lacking role. Kirsten Dunst’s affair with her boss is the catalyst for Clem and Joel’s realisation they’ve already met. (500) is an especially indie film, so an A-list cast is obviously difficult, and Tom’s sister was charming. Nonetheless, I do feel Eternal Sunshine handles the supporting cast better.
Somehow, this piece has turned from a review/critique of Eternal Sunshine into a comparison with (500). I’ve got to be perfectly clear that both movies deserve a place in my "if you love this you’re probably awesome” list, and that anybody who liked (500) will freaking dig Eternal Sunshine. Although, since it came out in 2004, they’ve probably already seen it.
9/10 would recommend.
(PS. Jim Carrey really shows that he can do dramatic roles that are light on humour. I wish he wasn’t typecast as the “comedy guy” so we could see this side of him. Perhaps he’ll show his dramatic side in Kick-Ass 2, although I somewhat doubt it.)