Two mini-reviews today of movies we managed to catch in the last couple of weeks.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Eternal Sunshine is one of those movies that has finally confirmed for me something I've been wondering for a long time: that other people dream in the same, weird, messed-up way that I do.
First, though, Jim Carrey. I've never disliked him, but I wasn't really into the Mask/Ace Ventura/Cable Guy thing. I liked him a lot in The Truman Show, which I felt was a good baby step in showing critics that he could do roles with a little more substance and drama to them (I also liked him in The Majestic, but it got universally panned, it seems). Eternal Sunshine, however, proves that Carrey is more than capable of doing some really great non-comedic acting.
I originally wrote "dramatic" there instead of "non-comedic", but that might be too serious a word for this role. The movie is an interesting blend of both comedy and tragedy, and the entire premise of it can be boiled down to the axiom "it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."
Kate Winslet plays Clementine, and Jim Carrey plays Joel. They are complete and utter opposites, and yet they fall in love. Joel and Clem meet, fall in love, and things go sour like they do in many relationships, and one day Joel finds out that Clem has erased him from her mind. Not in a figurative sense -- in a real, literal sense, by going to a hole-in-the-wall doctor that uses a medical procedure to wipe away any traces of a loved one (or even a pet) from a person's mind so that they can more easily move on with their lives. Joel decides that the pain of having lost Clem like this is too much to bear and he opts to have the procedure himself. The rest of the movie is mostly a journey through Joel's mind as the process is occuring.
But during the process, he interacts with his own mind and his own mind's avatar of Clem, and he discovers that he would rather keep the happy memories of having been in love with her and her with him and deal with the loss than to erase her completely and forget that he was ever that happy. There is ensuing chaos as Joel -- asleep on a bed while the procedure is being done to him -- grabs his mind's representation of Clem by the hand and the two of them attempt to run away from the process that's trying to destroy all traces of her.
This sounds like a pretty linear plot, but one of the most incredible aspects of this movie is the way it winds back and around itself, completely disregarding, it seems, the notion of a time line. There is a constant feeling that we don't know if we're watching a scene being replayed in Joel's mind or a scene with Clem in the present (and Clem is part of his present in a way I won't go into because it would spoil the nice twists of the plot).
Carrey was incredible in this movie. Winslet was great, too, but Carrey was really the one who convinced the audience that he could make such a drastic leap. I actually forgot a quarter of the way into the film that I was watching Jim Carrey. His character Joel is subdued, shy, introverted, and...well, really a pretty boring person. Yet the movie and Carrey's protrayal of him made me care about him. One of my favorite scenes in the movie that I felt really nailed the realness of these characters and Carrey's terrific acting here was when the two are naked in bed, and Clem talks about how ugly she always thought she was. Carrey rolls closer to her and whispers how beautiful she is. A description of it makes it sound boring, but the way he whispered it and the way he seemed so natural in that moment really made me feel like I was watching real life and not a movie. It was levels beyond the most dramatic and romantic moments in The Majestic. This was far more real and grounded.
And back to the whole dreaming thing: I loved the way this movie portrayed dreams and memories, and the way the mind imagines things in that weird, warped way none of us can quite describe to another person. There is a scene where Joel is recalling the time he and Clem broke into a beach house during the off-season, and the memory is being destroyed as Joel is recalling it. The way the movie's creators chose to have Clem speaking as if she were yelling from upstairs while Joel spoke in a whisper was the one point in the movie that really captured the feeling of being in someone's head.
The gist: A great film that I'll be buying on DVD when it's out. Carrey's acting is at its best, and the plot, direction, and vision of the film are probably going to remain as one of the best this year.
What's it worth?: Full price ticket on a night out.
I like Tom Hanks. He falls into a category of actors for me that I go watch not because I think they're going to transform a character, but because I like to watch them on the screen.
Hanks plays a southern gentleman with a devious plan to steal money from a riverboat casino in a tiny town in Mississippi. He recruits a small band of misfits (yes, I'm trying to avoid the cliches but they're really the only appropriate thing here) to help him hatch his plan, which will be executed from the basement of a house owned by an old pious, church-loving Black woman who has no idea what's going on or what would happen when she rented a room to Hanks' character.
I've liked the Coen Brothers' films I've seen in the past (O Brother, Where Art Thou?). I sort of knew walking into the movie that I really only wanted to see it for Hanks' performance as an affected Southern fop. Unfortunately, that was really the only good part about the first 2/3 of the movie, which was really slow. And during that first 2/3 the movie suffered from the very thing that was supposed to make it fun -- at times, when Hanks' is delivering the "$9 sentence when a $2 one will do" kind of lines that make you chuckle in the beginning, you're begging for the scriptwriter to just get on with it already. There are scenes in this first 2/3 where they're clearly trying to establish a reparte between Hanks' character and the old lady that's rented him his room and it just feels long and drawn out.
Have you noticed yet that I haven't used the character names and instead keep referring to the actors? That's because I can't remember the characters' names. They didn't make that much of an impression on me.
But the movie didn't completely fail -- the last 1/3 of the movie was great and clicked along with a lot of laughs from the audience. It was worth the set up from the first 2/3, but not enough for a theater ticket.
The gist: Hanks gives a good performance but its over-the-top nature gets tiring, and the movie suffers from a lack of characters that you really find yourself getting interested in.
What's it worth?: a renter.