3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Guess who actually likes romantic comedies? This guy, that’s who. Trouble is, Hollywood rarely makes a good one. That’s because the people that go see romantic comedies don’t see them because they relate to them, or because the acting is good, or because the writing is good, or the plot is believable, or because the characters have more than one dimension. No. All they want is to see Matthew McConaughey or Zac Efron shirtless (heck, who doesn’t?). So when a good rom-com does come around that is actually decent, it makes me happy. Vicky Christina Barcelona, Knocked Up, About a Boy, these are just a few that come to mind when I think of good romantic comedies from the 00’s (actually, for a great list of rom-coms from this decade, read this article—and look what’s number one!). I wouldn’t call any of these movies particularly great, but they are evidence that the romantic comedy genre can be done well with a little time and care given to writing characters and exploring real human thoughts and emotions about what love is. And that’s where we get to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (hereinafter “ESOSM”), everyone’s favorite memory-erasing, hipster-glorifying romantic comedy, epically written by Charlie Kauffman and directed by Michael Gondry. (By the way, if you’re ever watching a movie and you ask yourself “What kind of weirdo came up with this plot synopsis?”, the answer is almost always “Charlie Kauffman.” Thought I’d save you some trouble there).
Anyway, ESOSM movie defines an element of relationships that is completely overlooked by the majority of filmdom, which is the element of “we have no idea what the heck we are doing.” Many movies would have us believe that if it “feels right” then everything will work out in the end. Does anyone even know what feeling right feels like? I don’t feel like I know what feeling right feels like. Whatever. The point with ESOSM is almost the opposite—it may not feel right, it may feel close to right, or it may feel completely wrong—but underneath all of the BS fighting and bickering that tends to happen in any relationship (not mine though, duh), there may be something beautiful, something worth cultivating, and we are shooting ourselves in the foot if we don’t give it a chance. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet do a superb job of harnessing this conflicted mindset. Enough cannot be said about their acting and on-screen chemistry in this movie.
When Joel sees Clementine on the train to Montauk at the beginning of the movie, he asks himself, “Why do I fall in love with every girl who gives me the slightest bit of attention?” (Although, if Kate Winslet gave me some attention, I’d probably fall in love too). The cool part of that scene is that it can only be really understood on a second watching, because at that point in the story we didn’t know that they had a relationship before they erased each other out of their memories. So when he makes that statement, it wasn’t that he fell in love with her because she showed him attention; rather, it was because his subconscious was painfully aware of her—his immediate affection for her was something far deeper than he could explain or understand. (Side note—guys, when your significant other asks you why you love her—as an alternative to your usual BS-ing, I recommend saying, “Honey, my love for you is so much deeper than I can explain or fully understand.” It works.)
I’m realizing while writing this review just how hard being a *real* writer would be. There is so much more I would love to say about this movie and I can’t seem to fit it in an appropriate length. It speaks to me on so many levels, and its honesty and charm are second to none.
Plus, Kate Winslet is hot, even with orange, blue, or bright red hair.
-I’ve already mentioned some of my favorite romantic comedies from this decade, so this time I’ll let you guys list your top-5. Ready. Go.