Here's the pitch:
Jim Carrey is a mild-mannered somebody in love with Kate Winslett. It's a pleasant little relationship. Jim refuses to bathe or shave, Kate dyes her hair different colors with names like "Agent Orange" and "Red Menace" and has the attitude of your average Starbucks barista who is about to crack and decides to do so while making your cafe latte.
For some reason or other, it stops working for these two lovebirds and when Jim learns that Kate has gone to someplace called Lacuna to have all traces of their relationship removed from her memory, he decides to retaliate. He, too, wants to forget -- and why wouldn't he? Thusly, Jim signs up for the Lacuna procedure. He is drugged and laid out in bed at home, wearing a metal helmet that looks suspiciously like a spaghetti colander, while Mark Ruffalo (and his stack of hair) shows up with an Apple power book and some brewskis and starts to spot remove all memory of Kate from Jim's brain.
Are you with me so far?
We now see scenes from Jim and Kate's whirlwind romance begin to dissolve and disappear from Jim's memory. That moment when she told him to shower, that morning she dyed her hair "Blue Monday." Gone. And for some reason, while seeing all these Kodak moments vanish, Jim changes his mind. He doesn't want this relationship erased; he wants Kate back. So, in his brain, Jim grabs Kate (the memory of her anyway) and hand in hand, the two start running around his mind, dodging the memory scrubbers. And as they say on Blind Date, the two finally start getting to know each other.
Thank God Kirsten Dunst shows up and gets drunk with Mark Ruffalo and decides to strip down to her t-shirt and underwear and do the frug on top of Jim's bed. Finally, some real drama! Kirsten, who has about five good years left before she turns into Inga Swenson, who played "Mrs. Kraus" on Benson, looks absolutely fabulous in her t-shirt and underwear. It is, in fact, a memory I'm going to have to get scrubbed out of my mind if I'm ever going to be able to look at my girlfriend again with a straight face.
But I digress...
So then, just as you think you're getting into this, just when you're really enjoying this story, Charlie Kaufman shows up. Kaufman, as you know, is the screenwriter behind this movie as well as other self-reverential films like Being Charlie Kaufman, Confessions of Charlie Kaufman's Dangerous Mind and Charlie Kaufman's Adaptation. Kaufman is a beloved genius here in Hollywood. He is that special someone whose movies make no more than $22 million at the box office, but who is so daringly different, he keeps getting chased by financiers who want to give him money to make more films that make $22 million at the box office. He's kind of the Hollywood equivalent of France. Kaufman has made his mark writing movies that are mostly about him. In Charlie Kaufman's Adaptation, in fact, they actually use scenes from Being Charlie Kaufman. He is the very first celebrity screenwriter. But I never thought he'd go so far as to appear in one of his movies! So it was a shock.
Kaufman, who is quite a handsome guy, and who looks very much like Brad Pitt, then begins to lecture all the characters in the film about what a genius he is. He produces a scrapbook and begins to tell everyone how it started for him. Kaufman always knew he was special, he tells the cast and crew. He even shows photos of himself as a small boy proving that. Here's one of him at age 5 having his first idea. And here, at the tender age of 12, Kaufman is shown turning that idea into a notion.
By this time, Jim and Kate are still running around Jim's brain little knowing that their story has been taken over by the screenwriter. By now, they have definitely decided they want to stay together, but no one seems to care anymore. Back in "real life" the screenwriter is in charge. To this degree, they are just like me. I really could have liked this movie if Charlie Kaufman didn't show up. And even though this was how it appeared in my mind, from the chatter afterwards in the movie lobby of the Pointy Head Twinplex, and later at the Pointy Head Caf≥, that's all anyone was talking about: That Charlie Kaufman! He sure is a genius.
If I'm ever going to enjoy this film, I'm going to have to find a way to have Charlie Kaufman scrubbed out of my memory of it. Maybe in ten or twenty years when it shows up on cable. Or maybe, by that time, movies will be produced in the form of a little silicon chip that is inserted into the brain. And then, like in the movie, I can push a button and have Charlie Kaufman taken out of this film. That way too, see, when my by then wife turns to me and asks if I think Kirsten Dunst looks good in her t-shirt and underwear, I can smile and with complete innocence say "Kirsten who?"
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind now playing.
On its way to $22 million and maybe... beyond!