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The best and weirdest screenplays being written these days come from two sources, the Coen brothers, who had a bit of a hiccup with their latest film, The Ladykillers, and Charlie Kaufman, who has written the screenplays for Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Kaufman continues his string of great screenplays with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. This new film tells the story of a troubled man (Jim Carrey) who has recently broken up with his girlfriend (Kate Winslet). He discovers that she has undergone a new medical procedure that removes painful memories and no longer remembers him. Carrey visits the doctor (Tom Wilkinson) and decides to have the procedure done on himself. The result is a wild ride through Carrey's mind as it is being erased by Wilkinson and his assistants (Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, and Elijah Wood).
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one part Being John Malkovich and two parts Total Recall. The new movie features scenes from Carrey's life before and after the memory wipe, interspersed with what's happening in Carrey's brain during the procedure. While the memory wiping is in progress, Carrey changes his "mind" and decides to try and hide memories of Winslet so they won't be destroyed. The director, Michael Gondry, who is making his first major motion picture, does a great job of bringing Kaufman's script to life. You have to keep your wits about you in order to keep track of where Carrey and Winslet are at any given time, in the past, in the present or in Carrey's mind. The cast is wonderful. Jim Carrey shows that when he is under the control of the right director, he can really act. He shows a nice quiet in-control weirdness here. Kate Winslet and Tom Wilkinson show again that they are two of the most versatile actors around, who can and will do any part that catches their fancies. And they fancy a lot. Since playing the love interest in Titanic, which would have permanently typecast most people, Winslet has played a wide range of roles in Indie and mainstream movies including, Holy Smoke, Iris, Enigma and The Life of David Gale. She already has had three Oscar nominations (Sense & Sensibility, Titanic, and Iris). Wilkinson sometimes seems to be in every movie I see. I'll mention just a few, The Full Monty, Shakespeare in Love, The Patriot, In the Bedroom, The Importance of being Earnest, and Girl With a Pearl Earring. They are both great here as are Ruffalo and Dunst. And I tried hard to convince myself that Wood was no longer a Hobbit.
This film is really well done and is very enjoyable. The script is both entertaining and thoughtful. It delves into the question of whether there is a karma about love. If you fall in love with someone, break up with them, have your memory erased, and then meet them again, will you just fall in love like before? I hope that Charlie Kaufman has a few more of these scripts in his un-spotless mind. And no, he doesn't have an identical twin brother!