Charlie Kaufman has to be the quirkiest mainstream screenwriter Hollywood has ever tolerated. His films are often completely insane, but always startlingly original, and that’s what makes them such compulsive viewing.
Those familiar with Kaufman’s best known works will hear echoes of both Adaptation and Being John Malkovich in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. Indeed it’s clear that Kaufman feels most comfortable when in the mindscape of his characters, and that his characters are usually losers.
The trailer for Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (which I intentionally watched only from behind my VUE cinemas Unreel magazine) suggests a film that will envelop the viewer in a whirlwind of emotions. And for the first 20 minutes at least it does, so captivating is Joel and Clementine’s first meeting.
In these central roles Jim Carrey gives another excellent performance and he’s matched every step of the way by Kate Winslett. She’s irresistible here and without doubt more watchable than we’ve ever seen her.
Kaufman assures that his two leads are real and complex characters, Joel likeable and good-hearted, but also pathetic. Clementine enticing and exotic, yet impetuous and cruel. Carrey and Winslett must have delighted in these nuances of character as their performances alone are worth the price of admission.
Of the supporting cast Kirsten Dunst is the only one to make a real impression but it’s the central relationship between Joel and Clementine that makes this film work.
Director Peter Gondry mixes the real and the surreal seamlessly with an ease and regularity that impresses. His confidence and skills were gained in the music industry and must be prerequisites when collaborating with Kaufman, one assumes.
Kaufman’s detractors will no doubt state that his screenplays are precocious and self-congratulatory harbouring delusions of profundity. But quite simply, whatever you think, his writing attracts some of the finest actors that Hollywood has to offer - John Cusack, Nicolas Cage, Merryl Streep, Jim Carrey. You can’t argue with that.
4 out of 5 stars.