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16 reviews, 216 user ratings

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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
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by Mel Valentin

"Structurally brilliant, emotionally affecting, among the best of 2004."
5 stars

"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (ESotSM) proves, once again (some, like this reviewer, had lost faith after seeing "Adaptation") that Charlie Kaufman's one brilliant screenwriter; Michel Gondry, the director, succeeds admirably in translating Kaufman's complex, layered story to the screen with imaginative, sometimes hallucinatory visuals, fluid, unobtrusive camerawork and editing that, contrary to the naysayers, doesn't undermine, but instead supports narrative and character development (and insight into psychology).

Kaufman's script brilliantly captures all of the key stages present in all (or most) romantic relationships, the hesitations, the initial awkward exchanges (how much to reveal, how much to withhold), the inevitable headlong plunge into emotional and physical intimacy, the fears, the anxieties, the boredom, and ultimately, the messy breakup, where tensions and conflicts explode and individuals either realize they no longer love each other, or that mutual incompatibilities have turned into mutual apathy or, worse, mutual loathing. And Kaufman provides this insight through a non-linear dramatic structure.

ESotSM's unconventional, non-linear narrative structure is well suited to the premise of a character revisiting his own memories as they're slowly erased. Some critics and commentators have mentioned their difficulty in following the complicated, non-linear narrative structure, framed around the memory erasure technicians (referred to as "erasers") wiping Joel's (Jim Carrey's) memories of Clementine (Kate Winslet) sequentially, primarily moving backward in time, from the painful breakup to their first meeting. Instead, careful attention to Gondry's camerawork and editing reveals the boundaries of Joel's rapidly fading memories and the "objective" world of the "eraser" technicians. The "eraser" plotline also helps to ground the narrative in the everyday reality outside of Joel's memories and serves as a comic counterpoint to Joel's interior world. Dramatic tension and conflict subsequently derive from Joel's belated decision, in mid-memory wipe, to halt the erasure process and save his memories of Clementine, and in a sense, save himself.

Some critics have suggested that the achronological opening sequence is potentially confusing and risks losing audience interest and empathy with the central characters and their relationship. The opening sequence sets narrative expectations in motion: what are we seeing? Did it occur at all? Imagination? Memory? Dream? Almost as importantly, when did it occur? Audiences might be, however, bothered or distracted by the inconsistency between the opening sequence and the rest of the film: Kaufman and Gondry allow the audience to hear Joel's thoughts via voice-over narration, but they refrain from using voice over for the remainder of the film. That inconsistency can be resolved by realizing that, instead of continuously "hearing" Joel's thoughts throughout the film, once Joel has begun the memory-wipe procedure, the audience is taken directly into his interior life, visualizing his thoughts and memories, eventually drawing us into a surprising intimacy with Joel's metaphysical predicament.

Jim Carrey gives a mostly restrained performance, returning to physical comedy only when the narrative calls for it: when, inside his memories, he returns to earlier versions of himself. In addition, Carrey often has to carry entire scenes by himself, as he either comments on the unfolding, then crumbling memory as a passive or active third participant, then subsequently addressing the camera directly as the shadows erase his memories. Kate Winslet is luminous, as always; her performance captures Clementine's mercurial character perfectly, oscillating between engaging the audience and losing us altogether (and clueing us in to Joel's conflicted feelings toward Clementine). Kaufman ultimately suggests that memory moves beyond the visual and the aural: it goes deeper, into physical sensation and emotion.

Even (near) flawless films, however, have their shortcomings. Kaufman's script stumbles in the third act, specifically where the subplot and main plot overlap. The characters in the "eraser" subplot go through a series of complications and reversals keyed by a major character revelation, all which serves to distract from the main plotline. Unfortunately, the audience will feel Kaufman's heavy hand here. The audience will be able to draw the line between one particular complication in the subplot and a negative development in the main plotline later in the film. The movie should have ended on a more ambiguous note, leaving the characters with unresolved questions that we could answer for ourselves. Nonetheless, by that point in the narrative, Kaufman, Gondry, and the cast had generated enough "goodwill" that this narrative.

POSTSCRIPT: Kaufman lifted the phrase "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" from a line of poetry by Alexander Pope, about the forbidden, and eventually doomed, love affair between Abelard and Heloise, a medieval monk/theologian and an aristocratic nun. If it sounds familiar, it should: the protagonist/puppeteer (John Cusack) in "Being John Malkovich" stages a puppet play early in the film with Abelard and Heloise as the leads.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8888&reviewer=402
originally posted: 05/27/05 17:07:04
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User Comments

11/12/13 Vanessa Campos one of my top movies 5 stars
10/26/12 Bob Wow, just wow. I went in with no idea, not even about the memory removal, and I'm sooo glad 5 stars
9/23/12 rob beautiful movie, top 5 favorite of all time 5 stars
7/27/12 Luis Rivera Extremely genuine and effective 5 stars
1/21/12 rXrumere No Comment 5 stars
8/22/11 Annie G Will stick with you, in a slightly annoying fashion. 3 stars
7/10/11 Todd Go watch Twilight, Cindy. That'll be more up your alley. 5 stars
6/26/11 DR A must see movie, with one of the most brilliant movie endings - simple yet poignant. 5 stars
7/17/10 Flounder One of my all-time favorite films. Intelligent and emotionally poignant. 5 stars
1/15/10 Diarmuid Hickey Wonderful. 5 stars
7/02/09 cindy Nothing funny here, this movie just plain sucked. BORING!!! 1 stars
11/20/08 Shaun Wallner Interesting Movie! 5 stars
10/04/08 Lenny Zane Kate Winslet's Oscar nomination for this tripe may be a sign of the end of civilization. 1 stars
5/11/08 jordan unforgettable imagery and beautifully crafted. everything works wonderfully. a fav 4sure 5 stars
1/12/08 R.W.Welch Highly original but overly fragmented. B- 4 stars
12/15/07 LuLu One of the best movies ever made!!!!! 5 stars
8/02/07 Me This really sucks.. boring and predictable 1 stars
6/15/07 Danielle Ophelia Most movies make me hate myself in the morning. Not this one. 5 stars
6/03/07 Gary of Winnipeg A very stirring movie but not manipulative 5 stars
5/12/07 the t-dawg Just Super-Awesome-Tacular 5 stars
4/08/07 H.M. Anyone who doesn't like this movie is an idiot. (I'm looking at you, one-star guys.) 5 stars
4/04/07 fools♫gold Not as good or as bad as people say (to me, anyway). Dream-like, and it does it right. 4 stars
2/15/07 Coenie Best performance by the brilliant Ms Winslet....EVER! 5 stars
12/23/06 David Pollastrini a bit slow in places but still good 3 stars
12/22/06 Bill Lambertson Timeless Beauty. Astonishing. 5 stars
11/28/06 Stanley Thai One of the weirdest, imaginative, best, romance ever! 5 stars
11/25/06 Jason of Essex Carrey has more than redeemed himself; Winslet is superb. Sad, surreal, beautiful and lol. 5 stars
11/15/06 Brian O'Neill A phenomenally creative, affecting, unpredictable, fevered dream of a movie. Adored it. 5 stars
11/03/06 Courtney This film is amazing, truly touching 5 stars
8/14/06 nathan one of this decades best and most original films 5 stars
7/12/06 Agent Sands Deserving of every bit of praise it has gotten. 5 stars
6/06/06 Dave Webber I hatedthis - w-w-a-a-a-y-y-y-y-y too pretentious. 2 stars
4/30/06 Doug Seriously, HBS needs to bring back the 'Fucking Awesome' rating; 'Awesome' doesn't do. 5 stars
4/20/06 Diamond This movie is amazing, beautiful, funny, witty, and heart catching... MUST SEE. 5 stars
3/31/06 Anthony Feor Carrey has hit rock bottom 1 stars
3/20/06 kerry god does this movie suck 1 stars
1/04/06 Andrew Cheung After the 6th viewing, the ending is so perfect it still gives me chills 5 stars
12/26/05 Sammu i don't use to leave a movie theatre before the end of the movie, but this one... blaghr!!! 1 stars
12/12/05 cooler Winslet still can't act and this movie sucks.BORINGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
12/01/05 Tara I was shocked by how good this movie was. The previews didn't do it justice. 5 stars
11/15/05 noops show it any mental hospital 1 stars
11/13/05 Jason Marjoram wikid awsome 5 stars
10/10/05 Agent Sands Kaufman is so brilliant that he makes u follow his own train of thought during the story. 5 stars
9/24/05 D Buckley Kind of touching. 4 stars
8/17/05 Stephen Beautiful and deep without being preachy... well worth your time. 5 stars
8/05/05 Zack Charlie Kaufman's best screenplay 5 stars
8/04/05 Gabriel Ruzin heartbreaking and incredible; one of my very favorite 5 stars
7/25/05 Eric Rollins The French will love this. Unfortunately I'm not decadent enough. 2 stars
7/22/05 Bad Critic Finally, a good Jim Carrey movie. Well, there was The Cable Guy. I guess I take that back. 4 stars
7/07/05 delli Great, but i want to see it. 5 stars
6/29/05 Chris The best movie of this decade, no doubt about it. 5 stars
6/27/05 R once again, kaufman misses the "comedy" mark, but for the better. he got lucky, THIS time. 4 stars
5/16/05 E-FUNK Absolutely floored by this film. Gets better and better every viewing. 5 stars
5/05/05 Regis Best movie of 2004. 5 stars
5/01/05 dee smith aweful 1 stars
5/01/05 ed.williams Great movie. Jim Carrey is becoming a great actor...possible another Robin Williams 5 stars
4/22/05 akram One of the worst movies I have ever seen. 1 stars
3/29/05 Regis Malone One of the best movies of the 21st century, if not the best. 5 stars
3/25/05 Mike Best movie of 2004. No, make that the last five years. At least. 5 stars
3/25/05 MaryBeth Isaac Good - thought provoking; insightful. Very unique storyline. Kate Winslet was perfect 4 stars
3/24/05 dwarzel Hopefully no more talking out of his backside for Carrey 5 stars
3/23/05 Michael Lloyd unlike any other film, great cast, great writing, daringly original 5 stars
3/09/05 jeff beautiful movie!!! very touching. 5 stars
3/01/05 Taylor Fladgate A masterpiece...blows your mind... 5 stars
2/14/05 Angela Saunders Very different movie, unique! 4 stars
2/14/05 ELI You suck William! :) one of the best movies of the year 5 stars
1/25/05 Mark the best film of 2004 5 stars
1/24/05 Shawn jim carrey is great. great movie 5 stars
1/19/05 lindy03 This is a great film! 5 stars
1/15/05 Charlene Javier Brilliant! Bravo! 5 stars
1/14/05 Dara Elizabeth Van This film has made me look at life from a new perspective. Kate Winslet's BEST EVER!!! 5 stars
1/12/05 Tom Benton Easily the best film of 2004, and one of the best ever made. 5 stars
1/11/05 HL Twilight Zone?..Love Story?..Agree With TFH 'bout Kate. 4 stars
1/07/05 Martin Took some effort, but well worth it. 5 stars
1/04/05 Echo a lovestory with a twist. now my alltime favorite 5 stars
1/03/05 Abbath Very well made and written. Best of 2004. 5 stars
1/03/05 Max An aquired taste. 4 stars
12/29/04 Debra Sherman even made my nonemotional boyfriend sit up and take notice 5 stars
12/20/04 ELI Best movie in 2004! :) 5 stars
12/13/04 Tiffany Faye Hawthorne What Golden Globe idiots mistook this for a decent movie???? Kate Winslut sucks!!!!! 1 stars
12/12/04 AlbieOne Check it out,,, 4 stars
12/11/04 Charlene Javier Excellent! Kate Winslet deserves an Oscar! 5 stars
12/11/04 Jerry Very original. The best movie I've seen in 2004 5 stars
12/10/04 y2mckay vastly overrated, although Carrey gives a surprisingly good dramatic performance 3 stars
12/07/04 Lily To date, one of the best movies I have seen......A poignancyso pure and lethal 5 stars
12/02/04 Film Student Excellent movie, great subtle effects. See it. 5 stars
11/30/04 lolalaloca13 One of my top 5 fave films now! 5 stars
11/27/04 Matt F. Probably the best movie i've seen this year 5 stars
11/22/04 doinkie Stunning, thought provoking and brilliant. Best pic of 04 5 stars
11/22/04 Peter Scadding Slow to start with then the twists and turns kick in, marvellous film 4 stars
11/21/04 Jim Compelling psychological fairy tale shows how we forget good memories when things go bad. 5 stars
11/21/04 David Best movie of the year. 5 stars
11/20/04 Abbath A beautiful story filled with genuine emotion delievered in the most unique fashion. 5 stars
11/18/04 Jennifer I cannot get this movie out of my head, it's amazing! 5 stars
11/17/04 Ry Predictable and a waste of time. 1 stars
11/17/04 Jews for Hitler Right on the mark with toxic relationships. 4 stars
11/13/04 Nadia Fantastic. I loved it. 5 stars
11/07/04 Phil M. Aficionado Glad I saw it; innovative, well made, but too much hocum for my tastes 3 stars
11/05/04 Sara You're missing out if you don't see this. 5 stars
11/03/04 Alissa Lubanski This movie is a piece of shit. 1 stars
10/31/04 Monster W. Kung Frankly, I expected better than this. Not bad, but far from great. 3 stars
10/29/04 Elise WOW, best movie I saw this year! 5 stars
10/28/04 s4|nt you probobly think your artsy dont you? it blows 1 stars
10/27/04 The Talking Elbow Left me feeling 'bleh' at the end. Lacks real substance, more style then anything. But good 3 stars
10/23/04 Mikami Very sophisticated, non-linear film! 5 stars
10/12/04 Laura Defininutly awesome!!!!! 5 stars
10/08/04 Flounder Incredible 5 stars
10/03/04 Doc Hollywood Thought provoking and evocative. 5 stars
9/29/04 Flounder I'm absolutely stunned that I enjoyed this. 5 stars
9/28/04 MikeC Best movie i've seen in a decade 5 stars
9/24/04 Agent Sands One of the freshest, greatest movies in awhile. 5 stars
9/22/04 brit this is an amazing film. it is more than just simple entertainment.rather it is an artwork! 5 stars
9/22/04 nh great 5 stars
8/14/04 Peter James The best films of the year 5 stars
8/06/04 Terry Best film I've seen all year, or even the last couple 5 stars
8/04/04 Elena Best screenplay and direction in ten years 5 stars
8/01/04 Luna Pierce This movie has got to go on the top ten best movies of the year if not the last decade. 5 stars
7/24/04 marcelo marques Briliantly made. K. takes us on a journey which will never be erased from our minds..... 5 stars
7/21/04 dropdead Amazing! Best movie I've seen in a very long time! 5 stars
7/17/04 legend Hands down the best film this year. Great movie. 5 stars
7/08/04 Liz I loved this movie when I saw it. It was able to actually keep my attention the entire time 5 stars
6/30/04 Mikey Crunt I love this film. I was the only person in this old-fashioned cinema. Only in the UK 5 stars
6/11/04 Elena If you didn't like it, then you shouldn't have seen it because for what it is it's amazing 5 stars
6/09/04 S.F. Slow in the begining. A film that atleast tries to be different. Worth a watch. 4 stars
6/07/04 James Kustes One of 2004's best. Great soundtrack by ELO, Beck, and Jon Brion! 5 stars
6/02/04 Iris Dementia Praecox If Kirsten Dunst hadn't done VIRGIN SUICIDES, this would be every cast member's worst film! 1 stars
6/01/04 Norma Lehigh Woo fonvoulted cor turds! 1 stars
6/01/04 Turtle Touching, bizarre, and yet strangest of all, very real. Viva Charlie Kaufman! 5 stars
6/01/04 Sheila Evans ALONG CAME POLLY meets FATAL ATTRACTION meets 50 LAST DATES. 1 stars
5/30/04 Edler The ending was a disaster... like they ran out of money and had to wrap up in a hurry. 4 stars
5/27/04 Melissa P i loved the movie it's worth to see it, one of the few movies of its type that i enjoyed. 5 stars
5/26/04 Proteus Amazing performances, compelling creative script, and directed with flair. A treasure. 5 stars
5/22/04 Jackie Thomas original, great movie 5 stars
5/20/04 Alan Liddle In my Top 10 - Very left field! 5 stars
5/19/04 cpbjr One of the best movies I have seen in a long time. The story and its telling -- genius! 5 stars
5/19/04 Agent Sands Extremely effective. It may be kinda confusing, but it kicks ass overall. 5 stars
5/18/04 Elena Cloest thing to a perfect movie I've ever seen 5 stars
5/17/04 JoeManco Each prayer accepted, and each wish resigned 5 stars
5/15/04 steph an excellent film. really intresting and different ! loved it! :) 5 stars
5/14/04 skye so glad kate wasn't drew b. nice movie, but getting tired of reality-manipulation gimmicary 4 stars
5/14/04 earl duron WEIRD AND OVERATED=ANNOYING 2 stars
5/11/04 Graham Great acting and script killed by gimmicky over-direction 3 stars
5/11/04 Helen Bradley worst film of the decade 1 stars
5/10/04 AR Utterly wonderful acting and filming; a beautiful concept as well. 5 stars
5/10/04 Kimberly absolute genius 5 stars
5/06/04 DM Hooray for Jim Carrey! Found a new character at last! 5 stars
5/06/04 Mark Fulwiler Intelligent, well acted and entertaining 5 stars
5/01/04 sulky Kaufman brilliant as ever, Gondry underrated, wonderful cast 5 stars
5/01/04 Spud Envy Fabulous, funny, provocative and KIRSTEN DUNST in her undies!!! YOWZA 5 stars
4/26/04 gabrielle amazing! cant stop thinking about it 5 stars
4/26/04 Reini Urban Where Adapation failed, here it works. 5 stars
4/24/04 lacondora great, weird, wonderful flick 5 stars
4/23/04 Jorge Guimera heart and mind trip... a truly life experience 5 stars
4/23/04 mccn22 great 5 stars
4/22/04 ospinad simply put, best movie EVER! 5 stars
4/21/04 Kathy Brilliant love story, heartbreaking and funny too, Best of 2004 so far 5 stars
4/21/04 John Wallace long boring and confused 2 stars
4/19/04 Rosie R Brilliant! 5 stars
4/19/04 Marc Reasoner Bittersweet brilliance 5 stars
4/19/04 T$ excellent 5 stars
4/19/04 Boris Brilliant. Winslet is so adorable in this film, while Carrey holds his own. 5 stars
4/19/04 Owen Earp Phenomenal film... Jim Carrey & Kate Winslet are both truly captivating. True storytelling. 5 stars
4/19/04 Kevin c This movies sucks 1 stars
4/19/04 Nipun Sareen Smashing! Just one of the movies you would like never to end !!!! 5 stars
4/18/04 frankie stein deep and thought provoking. My new favorite movie 5 stars
4/17/04 zeitgeist Brilliant. Kaufman is a 21st century Philip K. Dick with glitz 5 stars
4/14/04 Agent Sands So deep it gets to boggle the mind into tying itself in knots, but it sure is great. 5 stars
4/13/04 CB truly beautiful...congrats Kaufman 5 stars
4/13/04 Aaron Artfully tasteful, but not great 3 stars
4/11/04 Jessica awesome movie 5 stars
4/10/04 Sean Anderson Has made me look at movies in a whole new light. One of my absolute favorites. 5 stars
4/08/04 colleen beautiful. 5 stars
4/08/04 Robert Wow, absolutely amazing. It'll mess with your head for a week 5 stars
4/07/04 mason ok if you like watching multi-millionaires try to play "regular-folks", annoying soundtrack 3 stars
4/06/04 re a great film 5 stars
4/04/04 Kbar a bit overobvious of a plot...no true mindfuck here 4 stars
4/02/04 Robert Goodwin Please tell everyone you know to go see this movie!!! Absolutely Incredible. 5 stars
4/02/04 othree great & touched way i can't express, carey (rocked)& winslet = wonderful 2 5 stars
4/01/04 Andy Lindsay Truly excellent. I'll see it again before it leaves the theaters. 5 stars
3/31/04 Jessie i loved it! 5 stars
3/31/04 Nicole Very solid movie, I was impressed. 5 stars
3/29/04 Barrett A stunningly beautiful and human film. 5 stars
3/29/04 jefftucson Best film I've seen in about a year. 5 stars
3/29/04 chris. awesome...NOT terrific 5 stars
3/28/04 FrayLo Takes a while to get started, but definitely relateable and compelling. 5 stars
3/28/04 Margie very very good... i think most people can relate with the subject matter 4 stars
3/27/04 average guy It's Worth a Look, but I was expecting too much after the buzz 1 stars
3/27/04 Kristin Fantastically creative and touching as well. "Being John Malkovich" with heart. 5 stars
3/27/04 Nathaniel No other word but amazing is needed 5 stars
3/27/04 Alicia I usually avoid anything with Jim Carey, but give him an Oscar! 5 stars
3/26/04 Melissa Gaugert Wonderful, surprising, sad, happy, funny --great all around movie! 5 stars
3/25/04 Eric This movie is incredible... It really touched me because, basically, I AM Joel. 5 stars
3/25/04 Emily When it was over i just sat there and took big breaths... 5 stars
3/25/04 rojo Great movie, be patient. 4 stars
3/24/04 Rich Great, thought provoking movie 5 stars
3/24/04 rje I like Jim Carrey but this is the worst movie imaginable 1 stars
3/23/04 Desperado Perfect, Incredible, I have seen a lot of movies, and this is one of my favorites, A+ 5 stars
3/23/04 cobra commander pretty damn good job by carey... a bit magnolia'esque nonetheless... fantastic!! 5 stars
3/23/04 Mortis Beautiful, engaging, engrossing, distrubing, saddening & uplifting - wonderfully acted 5 stars
3/22/04 Jon Jabber incredible acting performances especially from carrey, dunst, and winslet 5 stars
3/22/04 Mitch this film was really strange, and I don't think I got it. Mostly , it made me really sad. 4 stars
3/22/04 A F This will be hard to beat this year!!! In my mind anyway. 5 stars
3/21/04 Z_Fine The best film I have ever seen. 5 stars
3/21/04 susan lee kaufman rules 5 stars
3/21/04 midLI Cannot wait until I see it again! Better than awesome. 5 stars
3/21/04 Bubba Jones What 'Punch Drunk Love' was supposed to be (without the hype, too) & more. 5 stars
3/21/04 Koitus Parts were confusing, because of "jumbled" time-line(s); great flashbacks to childhood! 4 stars
3/20/04 True Grit Memento is about ten times better. The actors were cool but the movie lead nowhere. 2 stars
3/20/04 Titus Fantastic movie in every way. 5 stars
3/19/04 john wonderful, clever as 'Momento, romance, love etc. 5 stars
3/18/04 Cameron Slick An amazing, provactive, genius romantic comedy dreams are made of. 5 stars
3/14/04 Ray Carrey is good, but it isnt that much a comedy 4 stars
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  19-Mar-2004 (R)
  DVD: 04-Jan-2005


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