A friend of mine described Charlie Kaufman (the screenwriter and an executive producer of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) movies as “hard to watch.” Being a huge fan of Adaptation, I was taken aback by this statement. But then I started to think about the last third of Adaptation. It was an inside joke by Kaufman and Spike Jonze (director of Adaptation and another Kaufman screenplay: Being John Malkovich) mocking the formulaic thriller ending. They were trying to point out how stupid and annoying those endings can be but they were too successful. The mockery was as annoying as the subject it mocked.
When I saw Being John Malkovich I was impressed by the bizarre story and distinctly UN-Hollywood ending. But it was hard to watch. The characters in Malkovich were hardly likable and the resolution was far from gratifying. The entire mood of the movie was painful.
At least in Adaptation and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, there is hope at the end of the tragic comedy. Is there hope at the end of ‘Sunshine?
It all starts normally enough. There’s a poor sucker named Joel (Jim Carrey) who has just had a massive fight with his girlfriend, Clementine (Kate Winslet). He’s distraught. So he tries the age-old male technique of bribing his girlfriend with gifts. When he gets to her place of employment, she acts like she doesn’t even know him. She kisses another guy (Elijah Wood) in front of him. Is this bitch totally cold-hearted or is something up?
Something’s up. Joel returns home in tears and finds a strange letter from Lacuna, Inc. It lets him know that Clementine has had him erased from her memory. Naturally, he rushes to the company and demands an explanation. Thoroughly disgusted, he decides to erase her from his memory.
It’s all going to plan until Joel decides that he doesn’t want to forget about Clementine. That’s when things get really weird.
As in Malkovich, things get surreal. A great deal of the movie takes place inside Joel’s mind and minds aren’t exactly beholden to the laws of physics or time or plain common sense. It can be grating to watch.
I loved the socially awkward loser Turn by Carrey. I loved the “free spirit yet completely fucked up in her own way” sprite played by Winslet. I loved that the movie left me confused and that I had to put together some of the pieces in my brain to craft my own interpretation.
I loved the supporting actors. Mark Ruffalo doesn’t really have a demanding role – he’s just the man standing just to the side of all the action. Elijah Wood supplies the most comic relief as the perverted loser. Kirsten Dunst delivers as the nice girl who gets her illusions shattered. And Tom Wilkinson is exceptional as the sad old wizard whose power has become more burden than boon.
The message is clear. Memory can be painful and it can be wonderful. But would you choose that over being numb?
I would choose to see the sun shine. I would want to remember the sad songs.
Go get some ‘Sun. It won’t burn your eyes.
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