Contradicting Popular Opinion
An Enquiry Concerning Why Your Favorite Movie Sucks: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Edition
Bucket full of blood
Got you on my mind
Gonna break my face on the sweet sunshine
Every once in a great while a movie comes along that changes things. It offers a fresh and distinct artistic vision that alters the film industry and maybe, just maybe, teaches the world a little bit about itself. It captures a cultural Zeitgeist and proudly displays it on the silver screen.
More often than that, you get boring, one trick pony, romantic comedies.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind tells the story of a neurotic wuss, Joel, who is desperate to cling to a dysfunctional relationship with a girl half his age, Clementine. They break up, and the next logical step is for Clementine to get magical brain surgery to remove Joel from her memories.
Joel then signs up for the same mind erasing procedure out of spite. This allows desperate and impotent (not in that way pervert) loser Patrick, played by Elijah Wood, to steal Joel’s memories in order to bed Clementine, which he sadly doesn’t seem to do. He might have mind you, but I felt as if my mind were erased immediately after watching this movie as I was able to recall very little of it.
At any rate, chance and latent memories (or destiny, if you are a sap) cause Joel and Clementine to get back together. They then figure out that they both had unnecessary (and I would guess costly) surgery to remove this relationship in the first place, but decide to tough it out anyway.
So more quickly, boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl and realizes that love causes pain as well as pleasure. How f*cking innovative. It’s a 2 minute love song stretched into 2 hour movie. The only thing keeping this movie from being Romantic Comedy by rote, is the utterly ridiculous plot device.
I sat through most of this movie bored out of my skull. Why? Because nothing was at stake. The first scene of the movie shows them getting back together. Even if the viewer doesn’t comprehend this thing and is somehow tricked into thinking that this is how they first met, a notion that the movie routinely contradicts, what could possibly be at stake? A previously unhappy relationship. You can start an unhappy relationship at almost any time, buddy.
The characters of the film, if you can call them such a thing, are shallow, underdeveloped things. These are not rugged, romantic, dynamic individuals, not one of them. Instead, they all seem like watered-down variations of the John Cusack character in Being John Malkovich, which I gather would essentially make them variations of Charlie Kaufman, provided his Adaptation self interpretation rings true.
All of the characters seem uncomfortable in their own skin, unwilling to take decisive action, and unable to show any emotion outside of frustration with their respective love lives. Outside of their neurosis and spinelessness we know very little about these celluloid beings. We know nothing really important, interesting or intriguing about them. I don’t know what their interests are, their hobbies, I don’t even remember the main character’s job.
I saw the possibility of this movie to build characters, create tension and, thus, create a film that might interest people old enough to vote. Show Elijah Wood having sex with Kate Winslet. Not as a gratuitous sex scene mind you, but as a monumentally disturbing and important sex scene.
Immediately we’d have things to think about: is this rape? If it is, is there anything anybody can do about it? After the revelations about the mind erasing procedure, how would the characters react to such a thing? How do these creatures that are always afraid to act behave in a situation in which they must?
But is the time taken to develop these characters? Do we see how this new technology affects the bigger picture?
We were spared anything that would have developed these characters into anything more than the flat visions of a neurotic writer. And, as with Adaptation, Kaufman decided that his own head was the most interesting and important thing to show. Ugh.
Anyways, the movie is shot in these very drab and lifeless colors, perhaps to contrast the brightness of Clementine’s changing hair colors. I think that explanation gives them too much credit though; after all, this film does feature an exterior shot where you can spot people waving at the camera and waits nearly twenty minute to roll the opening credits. I’m pretty sure its muted tones are the direct result of filming the movie entirely over old episodes of “Dark Shadows” the vampire soap opera.
Furthermore, the special effects are lousy. They look really dated. Granted, I think CGI is over-used and movies are too reliant on special effects, BUT this is a special effects movie. A good chunk of the movie is spent in the interpretation of a memory and said memory’s subsequent destruction. If I am going to sit through the home movies of a bland character, watching him talk to a figment of his imagination, at least make it cool when shit gets f*cked up.
I know that imaginary Clementine insists that she isn’t a figment of Joel’s imagination, but that is just what a figment would say.
I do have to hand it to Kate Winslet. I merely disliked her character. In the hands of many other actresses I would have despised Clementine. She’s the type of girl that infatuates guys when they first meet her, but after a week she proves herself completely and utterly annoying. She’s the sort of woman who knows nothing of herself, or life in general, yet still feels the need to tell others how to live their lives.
At any rate, Winslet still has a lot of good will to make up for her horrendously hammy performance in the godawful Life of David Gale. Important fact: As of this writing, Winslet is the only respected British actor to not appear in a super-hero movie.
Let’s go back to the mind-machine. You have an impossibly wonderful, new and working technology, that no one seems to know about. Knowledge of it doesn’t even seem to spread through word of mouth. No one seems shocked by this sort of thing. No one seems to be able to think of a non-trivial use for such innovative mind science. No one else has been able to develop this technology. So naturally who do you employ to tech/operate your machine? Biologists? Neurologists? Psychologists? No, pot-smoking youngsters that fornicate on the job. Way to go science!
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is the brainchild of writer Charlie Kaufman, writer/director Michael Gondry. and story contributor Pierre Bismuth (whose vast credits include playing himself receiving an Oscar at the 77th Annual Academy Awards). Charlie Kaufman is best known for writing weird and uneven screenplays, that never quite live up to the original promise he showed with Being John Malkovich. My interest in his writing peaked at the Thomas Hayden Church sitcom “Ned and Stacy” which, come to think of it, starred Debra Messing pre-“Will and Grace.” Weird. Using a complex algorithm, I predict Debra Messing’s next sitcom will be called, “Peter and Tracy.”
Most people know Michael Gondry as the guy who sings “I’m a lumberjack and I’m okay” in the original Monty Python sketch.
No? That was Michael Palin?
Who the hell is this guy?
Most people have no clue who Michael Gondry is or what he wants from us. I do know that he occasionally gives his projects very long names such as this film and D.A.F.T.: A Story About Dogs, Androids, Firemen and Tomatoes .
Spotty is currently ranked by IMDB as the 31st greatest movie of all time. Ranked higher than Raging Bull, Patton, Vertigo, Chinatown, and a bunch of other movies that actually have characters and tell a story with emotional content. This proves once again that the people that make up IMDB are mouth-breathers and 12 year old girls. OMG best movie evar!1 etc. etc.
User comments have this thing voted as being 10 stars over and over again. I don’t think I have ever seen a movie that deserved a ten out of ten rating. Except, of course, Action Jackson.
Oh, and want a little insight Indie film snobs? Just because something has the artsy Focus Feature logo doesn’t mean it is any good. They make some decent yet over-rated flicks (Lost in Translation), painfully bad and stupid movies(Yes, I’m looking at you 21 grams) and the occasional tremendously incompetent film (read as The Door in the Floor).
They are not even truly independent movies, because Focus is a subdivision of Universal which is a subdivision of NBC Universal, which is still controlled by giant GE. GE, if you don’t know, currently owns 27 percent of the nitrogen in your air.
What to watch instead
Sticking to romantic comedies with silly twists: Return to Me is an underappreciated and old fashioned movie with the plot device of a heart transplant; Focus Features subdivision Rogue Pictures put out what is arguably the best romantic comedy with zombies in Shawn of the Dead; hell, I’ll even put Sliding Doors on this list.
Ooh, if you want to watch another movie that avoids talking about the effect of radical new technology on sexual relations, I would recommend John Woo’s ridiculously and wonderfully bad movie Face/off wherein the hero’s wife doesn’t seem to mind the fact that she was taken advantage of by a terrorist surgically altered to look like her husband. That was a very long sentence, and I apologize.
Or you could always watch Action Jackson.