Ahh the screenwriter. The crafter of a movie's story. One of the most intregal cog's of the movie machine. The screenwriter is one of the most important parts of the movie process...and also the one who gets some of the least recognition. They aren't household names, and you won't find pinups of them in Tiger Beat. But while you probably won't find Charlie Kaufman in Tiger Beat, he is slowly treading into household-name territory with his incredibly inventive screenplays. The bizarre writer behind Being John Malkovich (which, in my opinion, is one of the most original movies of all-time), Adaptation, and the incredibly underrated Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is back with his latest offering Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. If you're familiar with Kaufman's movies, get ready for more of his usual oddities. If you're not familiar with Kaufman's movies, well, your head might hurt a little...
This movie is sort of like one of last year's greatest films, 21 Grams, in terms of structure, that is. The movie jumps back and forth in time, with no real warning or transition, and you really have to pay attention to figure out what's going on. So, basically, if you leave to get some popcorn or are making out with your significant other for any period of time, you might just be totally confused. The structure works, I think, but it really does require your full attention.
The movie is basically about Joel Barrish (Carrey), who wakes up one morning, with an odd feeling. He goes out to his car, and the door is all smashed in, thinking it was the car parked next to him that did it. For reasons he can't explain, he skips work, and catches a train to Montouk, where he meets Clementine (Winslet) and kind-of hits it off with her. I really shouldn't tell you anymore, because the structure is so bizarre and I don't want to spoil anything. Just be ready for some very quirky filmmaking.
There are some simply wonderful performances here from the wide-ranging cast. Jim Carrey is just great as the timid Joel Barrish. He shows off his wonderful range that everyone forgets he has. And Kate Winslet gives an amazing performance as the off-beat Clementine. You've never seen her like this before, and she's never been better. And look for some great smaller performances from Mark Ruffalo, Tom Wilkinson, Kirsten Dunst and Elijah Wood, in his first role since that one movie he was in that won Best Picture this year.
This is Charlie Kaufman's first foray into non-linear screenwriting, and he does a remarkable job. The only big problem with the movie is that it is a little slow to get into. It takes you a little while to get the hang of the structure, and learn how to pick up where exactly we are in the story, because there are no clear transitions to where we are in time. But once you get used to it, the movie just shines. Kaufman is also great with the dialogue, and the ending, with all its great twists is just simply remarkable. The only other problem is that these characters aren't really developed very well, but you don't really notice this because you're so engrossed in the story.
Director Michael Gondry, who used to be a pioneering music video and commercial director, does an outstanding job directing here. He is great at subtely guiding us through Kaufman's zig-zag script, and he really brings out the best in Carrey and Winslet. He also received a story credit on the screenplay with Kaufman, which basically means that Gondry and Kaufman came up with the general story, and Kaufman crafted it into a screenplay himself. I think the fact that he helped out with the story really brought up his directing a notch. Gondry is a very talented director and it will be interesting to see what he will tackle next.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a movie about the measures people will take to move on, no matter how extreme they are. It's funny and warm, touching and odd. If you're a fan of Kaufman's previous work, all I can say is, buckle up for one hell of a ride that will leave you joyful, yet dizzy and in awe of Hollywood's god of originality.