Released: March 19
Distributor: Focus Features
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” is French musicvid director Michel Gondry’s second and best-yet teaming with scribe Charlie Kaufman. While their first collaboration on “Human Nature” didn’t quite hit the mark, “Eternal” proved more satisfying.
An intellectual’s love story, the film follows Joel (Jim Carrey) and his blue-haired girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) as they fight inside his brain to retain the memories of their relationship. As the screwball staff of memory-erasing company Lacuna Inc. (composed a solid supporting cast of Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood and Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson) works throughout the night, Joel’s struggle becomes symbolic of the eternal battle of heart vs. mind.
Such romantic comedies are not standard Oscar fodder but the film surpasses the cliched conventions of the genre, tapping into far more poignant emotions of heartbreak and loneliness. And while the off-beat story may confound some Acad voters, the same contingent that propelled pics such as “Lost in Translation” and “City of God” to noms last year could bolster support for “Eternal” this year.
Kaufman’s outrageous, goofy and complex storytelling has won over the Acad before. With two noms under his belt (“Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation”), he’s poised for a hat trick with “Eternal,” his fifth script to be produced in as many years. And with a larger heart and bigger box office than his prior pics (at over $34 million, “Eternal” out-grosses both “Malkovich” and “Adaptation”), it could find the spotlight in other categories as well.
Oscar nominee Kate Winslet’s livewire Clementine strikes just the right balance of wacky neurotic and wounded charmer, but the actress’ tear-jerking performance in “Finding Neverland” might split her fan-base. The real wild card here is Jim Carrey, who turns in a strong performance as the muted, mopey and vulnerable Joel. But will the Academy accept the comedian’s shift to semi-serious star? They ignored him in “The Truman Show.”
Gondry smartly keeps special effects low-tech and favors a daringly simple visual handheld approach (aided by cinematographer Ellen Kuras). Such decisions, in their lack of flash, support the fundamental allure of “Eternal Sunshine”: Above all, it’s not style that matters, but the vicissitudes of the heart — an Oscar message if there ever was one.