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Saturday, 20 November 2010

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

There are some films which most people rave about which have left me on the chilly side of cold and I begin to wonder what is the matter with me. So I watched this Oscar-winning flick again (best original screenplay for Charlie Kaufman plus a best actress nom for Kate Winslet) and I remained unenchanted by it the second time around as well.

I can understand why it has its fans and why it is considered amongst the best films of the decade. Based on a quotation from Alexander Pope praising the blissfulness of an empty mind, free from all disturbing memories, we can all recall painful loves and losses and dream of being liberated from such distractions. However, this is to deny life with its many ups and downs. After a fight with boyfriend Jim Carrey, Winslet approaches Tom Wilkinson's Lacuna Corp. to wipe her memory of their relationship and to enable her to start afresh. When she no longer recognises the lovelorn Carrey and has taken up with a new, younger beau, he too opts for the Lacuna treatment. However in the midst of losing the bad memories, Carrey realises that there are so many deep-rooted happy times that he would want to recall that he tries to prevent their inevitable destruction.

With its non-linear structure -- the end of the film is actually at the beginning, but it takes the viewer a while to understand this -- the movie is self-consciously quirky and one struggles to follow the story. That in itself is fine, as one can use the colour of Winslet's messy hair -- she favours outlandish shades of green, blue, and red -- to pinpoint the actual times and sequence of the action. However well-done the film's dreamlike meandering might be, I for one did not care, as I found most of the characters annoying. In particular Lacuna's staff of Kirsten Dunst, Elijah Wood, and current flavour-of-the-month Mark Ruffalo were on balance both aggrevating and took up too large a chunk of the action. The latter, with his unwashed appearance, cavorting nakedly with Dunst whilst supposedly monitoring Carrey, verged on the nauseating. And as for the gormless Wood stealing both Winslet's underpants and many of Carrey's memories to woo her, ugh with a capital U. Oddly enough, the un-Oscar nominated Carrey probably gave one of the best performances of his career as the needy, nerdy Joel.

Writer Kaufman has produced some interesting scripts and director Michel Gondry is also a talent to admire, but I still find it nearly impossible to share the admiration that this movie instilled in so many other viewers. Between them, I think, they pulled the wool over some easily distracted eyes.

As a footnote and possibly to prove that at heart I'm a cinematic philistine at times, yesterday I watched Gerard Butler in 2009's "Law-Abiding Citizen". While not delving the same convoluted depths as "Sunshine...", but nearly as preposterous, I found it the more watchable movie. I don't normally like Butler, but he was surprisingly good here, when he was not trying to play a muscled hero or a frothy rom-com love interest. I found myself rooting for his good-guy turned bad-guy to win, even if movie convention left victory to Jamie Foxx's unlikeable 'hero' (not!).
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