The designated psychedelic experience of 2004 took the shape of Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet among many others. The film, which can somehow be described as a part comedy (it’s actually very funny at times), takes place in New York where two lovers with a unique relationship have grown tired of each other, and decide to avail of an up-an-coming service to erase each other from their memories. The film received an academy award for best screenplay as well as a nomination for Best Actress from Kate Winslet.
Now this is a film of many levels. It has a casually phenomenal cast (I’ll not go into their names, seriously there’s a lot of them). The problem is their performances are, in my opinion, equally casual. This may or may not have been their fault, which makes it no less irritating to watch. Frankly, the fact that this film won for best screenplay bothers me, it really does. It’s not bad writing in general, and the concept itself is shockingly good, in fact, in hindsight, that’s probably what it won for. The problem came in the execution, the actual syntax of the film. The problem really stems from one core issue: The two main characters are bad. There’s no other way to say it. Joel and Clementine make for possibly the least endearing, least committable on-screen couples I’ve ever seen, which ends up being a pretty big issue considering that’s the film. The writers of the film have made the mistake of selling the audience the wrong facet of the story. Instead of selling us a uniquely tender, loving relationship that went wrong from forces outside of their control, which is what their relationship could be described as on paper, the writers have decided to meet the audience with two bland, unlikable, irritating protagonists who would be far better off without each other. Again, this is a problem that conceivably could have been solved from minute one. It came about, however, when the film got drunk on it’s on complexity. More time was spent during the film on existential psychedelia than on developing the relationship of the protagonists. Not only that, but more time that could have been spent cementing a genuine like for the characters on screen was squandered to make way for silly, irrelevant side-plots concerning the administers of the procedure, which ended up just as half baked as the main story.
It should be noted, however, that the psychedelia isn’t all bad. It produces some real moments of comedy as well as tenderness, and, while that shouldn’t be forgotten, it can’t be ignored that at least a half hour of the film was wasted on a random psyche trip that didn’t do anywhere near as much as it should have to enhance the commitment to the audience. The film has an exceptional concept, a really wonderfully deep and simple message of accepting inevitability, and a certain amount of the psyche trip was probably required to sell it; the psychological turmoil was the thing that sold the most in the film. The issue is that they spent more time on that and not nearly enough time on the actual situation. Now it’s easy for me to bash, and I take for granted what a really fantastic concept the film is (seriously, it’s great). The problem is, as a viewer, I didn’t feel as wowed as I should have been. There were moments when I was frowning just for the ridiculous, almost comedic over-complication of what was complex enough to begin with.
There’s enough technical quality to sustain, interesting shots and visual turns that leave one open-mouthed. But that’s the technical stuff, and while it’s important, it needs to be second priority to the story, which was good not great; and that, to me, is a calamity with such an incredible idea. They had a great idea that they tried to turn into Inception (Before Inception was even conceived, I might add), and it didn’t sit well. What I saw was the mechanics of the story being sidelined for something more psychologically interesting, which didn’t even happen because it was one of those sequences that seem really deep and introspective, but, when you think about it, didn’t actually make any sense in the context of the film. And then we come back to the tragic treatment of one of the laziest romances I’ve ever seen, that I honestly didn’t give a damn about. It was just bad.
All in all, I was unimpressed with this one. That said, as I’ve already mentioned, it’s easy for me to bash something like this. The fact is that it’s critically acclaimed and sits on one of the most interesting, and possibly even underrated ideas a film has ever had, that was well ahead of it’s time. As for the story elements, you should be allowed to make up your own mind.
– Aman Datta
Aman’s Score – 70/100 Aryamaan’s Score – 75/100