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other new + recent LAZE features:
o Flick: House of Sand and Fog
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: In America
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: The Graduate
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copyright ©1999-2004

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collector's ed

flick pick | Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 2004
Directed by: Michel Gondry
Written by: Charlie Kaufman (story + screenplay), Michel Gondry (story), Pierre Bismuth (story)
Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, Kirsten Dunst, Tom Wilkinson
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: drama
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something: artsy-fartsy, darkly comic, lovey, mind-bending
The critic says: / 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: /5 

Plot synopsis After his impetuous girlfriend Clementine storms out on their two-year-long relationship one wintry night, Joel Barish shows up at the bookstore where she works, ready to make whatever amends necessary to win her back. So he's stunned when Clementine acts like she's never seen him in her life, and is still reeling from the shock when another young man shows up, and Clementine greets the stranger with a great big kiss. Hurt and confused, Joel pours his heart out to two of his best friends, and is so wrapped up in his pain that he doesn't register the guilty looks they exchange as they try to console him. Finally, they show Joel a tiny typewritten note that they've received in the mail from a local doctor's office. The note politely informs them that Clementine Kruczynski has had Joel Barish erased from her memory, and that they are not to mention him in her presence ever again. Determined to find out exactly what's going on, Joel arranges an appointment with the doctor, who explains that he's developed a special procedure to help patients erase select portions of their memory so that they can better move on with their lives. It's safe, it's painless -- the patient goes to sleep like normal one night, a pair of trained technicians slip in to take care of the erasing, and the next morning, the patient wakes up without an inkling that the procedure has even happened. Joel decides it isn't at all fair for him to have to carry the sole burden of the memories associated with their collapsed relationship, and decides to have Clementine erased from his mind as well. But as he undergoes the procedure, he finds himself reliving their time together in his unconscious mind, starting from the most recent memories and moving backwards. And as the terrible fights of their latest interactions give way to all the happy times that made them fall in love in the first place, Joel realizes that he's not quite ready to say good-bye to his memories of Clementine.

Review I've always admired Charlie Kaufman's trademark darkly surreal, amusingly po-mo storytelling, in movies like Being John Malkovich and Adaptation and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, heck, even in the rather goofy Human Nature. But there's always been something a little forced about the wackiness -- it's all a bit too hit-you-over-the-head clever. I like those movies, I respect their unique voice, but I don't adore them in the deepest depths of my being -- they're so self-consciously brainy that they make my heart feel a little neglected. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has all the quirkiness and fun dream logic that have come to define Kaufman's work, but it's the first Kaufman story I've seen that I really, truly love on a level that goes beyond pure rational thought. It helps that since so much of the movie takes place in Joel's sleeping mind, the weirdness makes its own kind of sense; it's easy to accept stream-of-consciousness when it's in the context of a dream. But what really makes me want to marry this movie isn't the wittiness of the premise, though it's rather brilliant indeed, or the sparkly whimsical beauty of the way director Gondry constructs his scenes, though that's swooningly lovely as well. It's that Kaufman and Gondry and Jim Carrey (subtle and restrained and utterly convincing) and Kate Winslet (bigger-than-life charismatic, as always) really make me feel for Joel and Clementine. I love them, and hate them, and get exasperated with them, and ultimately, root for them. Eternal Sunshine just fills my lil' heart with so much happy lovey goodness -- which is a weird thing, because this is not a happily-ever-after sort of story; the ending leaves us with no guarantees that love always wins out. No, in the end, it's not faith I feel as much as hope. But see, faith puts the control in someone else's hands; it's a promise just waiting to be broken. Hope's just a maybe that keeps us pushing ourselves forward, towards some eternal sunshine we might never reach. And here's the great thing about hope: it keeps us motivated because if we can get some place a little bit closer and a little bit better, that might just be good enough. Which is why I'll take hope over faith any day. —reviewed by Yee-Fan Sun

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