Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Director: Michel Gondry
Writer: Charlie Kaufman
Charlie Kaufman writes movies with uniquely bizarre premises and utterly human themes. In Being John Malkovich, he deals with identity, aspirations, and the hard reality of existence. Adaptation is about the creative struggle and the need to adapt and evolve with the circumstances. In Synecdoche, New York he presents us with a stylized look at our perception of life and other people. In Eternal Sunshine he searches through the meaning of love and memory. All of these descriptions are trite, insufficient, and probably inaccurate. They are, however, what I recall learning from and seeing in the films.
I just re-viewed Eternal Sunshine. I think it is his best script, and one of the best scripts of the 00’s. In all his films, Kaufman is able to create a bizarre world filled with eccentric characters that are surprisingly like each of us. I have not had to deal with the rise and fall of a relationship like Joel and Clementine do in the movie. I have had to deal with the peaks and valleys of ones. I can most certainly understand the place memory holds in our value system.
I recently saw a lecture on the meaning of happiness. The speaker noted that there are two main types of happiness: that which comes from experiencing and that which comes from remembering. This movie very effectively illustrates that there is a disconnect between the two. The lecturer noted that people who moved from Ohio to California would say that they are happier. They aren’t. They remember the hard winters and are comparing their present experience to their memories. We tend to filter our memories to extremes, either very good or very bad. We tend to not place emphasis on the middle.
One of the many problems with Joel and Clementine in the movie is that they place more emphasis on present experience rather than memory. In the end, Joel comes to realize the importance of memory, and its supremacy to the present. Even though he knows his relationship with Clementine will probably fail, he is will to move ahead, if only for the pleasant memories of pleasant times.
The themes of this movie are similar to the themes of Dark City, another very good movie. The two might make an interesting double-feature, even though the forms of the movies are very different.
Gone Baby Gone is the first film by director Ben Affleck. As an actor, I am not that impressed with Ben. As a director, though, he has shown himself very capable. GBG is about a child abduction case. It takes place in Boston, MA. Helene McReady (Amy Ryan) is the drug-addicted mother of the abducted child. Her sister-in-law, Bea (Amy Madigan) decides to hire some private investigators, Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan), to augment the police investigation. The police captain in charge of the missing children’s division is Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman). His own child was murdered many years previous. Patrick and Angie begin to work with the primary investigators on the case, Remy Bressant (Ed Harris) and Nick Poole (John Ashton). Patrick is from the neighborhood, and can talk with people who don’t talk with the police. As the investigation continues, everyone starts to wonder if they will find the child alive. Even if they do find her alive, she may not be in good hands with her derelict mother.
This is an emotionally intense movie. It is based on a novel by Dennis Lehane. Lehane also wrote the novel on which the movie Mystic River is based. They are similar movies in that they both are set in Boston, and they both involve crimes against children. They both contain characters with deep emotional scars. I think Mystic River is a little better movie. It affected me much more than GBG. That being said, GBG is a good movie. The acting is all very good. I have been very impressed with Casey Affleck. He was entertaining in the Ocean’s movies (Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen). Last year he also appeared in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, opposite Brad Pitt. He was very good in that. In GBG, he has a youth and innocence that contrasts well with the corruption that surrounds him.
The production design of this movie is very good. It was shot on location in Boston. Most of the extras were locals, many of whom are non-actors. All this gives the movie a very authentic feel. You get a real sense of the neighborhood.
Ben Affleck does a good job his first time as director. He doesn’t rely on cheap emotional manipulation, or unnecessary cinematic tricks. He tells the story in a very straightforward manner. The pacing is very nice. He takes the necessary time to tell the story, allow each scene a proper time. I can’t say he will become as good of a director as other actors (Clint Eastwood and Robert Redford in particular), but he did good with this movie. It helps that he is from the Boston area. He was able to apply an intimate knowledge that some one else might now have had.
Though it is gritty, and very emotional (especially for a parent), I would recommend it. It makes you think about things you’d rather not think about. I questioned some of the decisions of the characters. Yet, I wondered how I would react in the same situation. I didn’t approve of them, but I really could criticize them. I would recommend you check the content review of the movie before you see it (link to the right). It is raw, and dark, but if you can deal with that, it is worth seeing.