Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004)

(In theaters, April 2004) I have a bad, bad allergy to naturalistic film-making. But even that couldn’t keep me from appreciating this film, a cheerfully original piece of work that feels both fresh and gritty. The concept of memory erasure as a “solution” to heartbreak isn’t revolutionary (there are many Science Fiction stories dealing with that exact same theme), nor is the notion of Jim Carrey as a dramatic actor. But this film does wonders with both. A simple story (boy meets girl, boy loses girl, girls has boy erased, boy does same) told in an eclectic style, Charlie Kaufman’s script seamlessly delves into matters of memory and identity. As a Science Fiction story, it’s interestingly realistic, featuring ordinary people who often do stupid things and jury-rigged technology that can go really wrong. It’s also admirable how it avoids the circular pessimism that is inherent in its premise, suggesting that it’s only by learning from mistakes and painful moments that we can grow. Obvious stuff, sure, but somehow the way it’s all done makes it seem new. (Much in the same way that the muddy cinematography of the film often obscures top-notch special effects) I’m still not completely blown away by the film (among other annoyances, it sports far too many gratuitously-weird moments that don’t end up meaning much at the end) but it’s a rare piece of solid SF cinema-as-art, something that can be discussed and taken apart.

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