Dorian's Movie Reviews & Critiques

Is it worth seeing? Reviews are presented with no cynicism, no comparisons, no biased standards, no pretentiousness - every movie is reviewed on its individual entertainment value including technical presentation.

Note that a critique for writers follows the review.

Scale 1 - 10
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
2004, Focus Features
Directed by Michel Gondry
Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman,
from a story by Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry, and Georges Berrmann.
MPAA Rating: - R -

Is it better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all? This movie poses the question in big letters. When the final curtain lowers over their relationship, Joel (Jim Carrey) finds the memories too painful, and the finality hopelessly unbearable. He needs a new beginning. Joel undergoes a procedure to erase her memory from his mind. As the memories, one by one, tumble into featureless ashes, he realizes what irreplaceable experiences he is losing. If only they could try it again...

Did Joel's love, Clementine (Kate Winslet) feel the same? Or was their past gone forever for her, too?

Sometimes you can look through the blinding smoke, from the smoldering angst, fights, conflicts, difficult times, and hateful moments, to see the real gems that we give each other, and how important these are. This movie seems to say that we need the good, and perhaps the bad. What will be, will be.

This movie is the result of a creative genius at work - writer Charlie Kaufman has conjured "uniqueness" once again, and it is mesmerizing. (Kaufman's genius warm up for this was Being John Malkovich, as well as several more recent movies.)

If Jim Carrey did not outperform his noteworthy comic performances in this drama, he at least demonstrated his high talent for dramatic acting. Jim's character, Joel, is stiff, emotionless, self-contained, responsible, hung up on rules, fearful - definitely not a risk taker. Yet Carrey shows us, in a Chaplain like way that Carrie seems to have mastered, what goes on in Joel's mind. In a movie in which much takes place in the mind, Carrie's ability is a really necessary element in this film. Flawless performance.

Kate Winslet, who plays Clementine, is a real surprise. Her performance makes it easy to believe that she really is a person with green hair... or whatever the color of the day is. She is wild and free, completely irresponsible, with absolutely no direction in her life but the spur of the moment. We expect her to take Joel on the ride of his life, yet what her antics bring out of Joel, and herself, is something very real - love. Flawless performance.

If this movie is not on your "must see" list, then sneak it in, right there at the top. If this movie has not yet been nominated for an Academy Award, it should be for writers, actors, director, production design, and film. I rarely give the top rating (10) to any movie. This drama is good... all the way to the end. It carries an "R" rating for some scenes. Enjoy!

I feel that the advertising for this movie (TV, March 20, 2004) fails to do it justice.

Eternal Sunshine Home page.

Engaging: Very.
Boring: No way.
Confusing: Possibly may be to some since the story is not linear.
Characters: Flawless performances
Entertaining: Yes - unforgettable
Plot: Excellent balance between theme, plot, and character.
Uniqueness and originality: Excellent
Surprises: Yes
Recommend this movie to others: Highly
Emotional reaction to the movie (the following are from a work in progress):

  • Film Mood: adventurous, crazy, creative, impulsive, radical, romantic, sentimental, uplifting, wonderful.
  • Film ethos (feelings left with): appreciated, valued, complicated, enlightened, genuine. Humbling, tolerate, be less reserved, be more risk taking.
  • Film Energy: motivated, powerful, engaging, refreshing.
  • Film Outlook: optimistic

Technical and critique

My comments below attempt to draw attention to things that make a movie good, especially if they made major contributions. For professional judgments on these various arts, the reader should consult professionals in these arts, and realize that these notes are not necessarily part of the overall rating for entertainment value.

  • Writing - great characterization; well integrated interaction with the set and use of the set as a "character;" very visually presented. The medical professionals were a little unbelievable. Some of the gratuitous skin flashes were too obvious. Well deserved: Ten spotlights.
  • Acting - Flawless performances. Ten spotlights.
  • Casting - Well chosen. Ten spotlights.
  • Directing - the scenes flowed well; the story was cohesive; memory and reality were blended very well, avoiding confusion; the drama was told visually; and good overall production. Ten spotlights.
  • Lighting - Excellent blend of lighting with the set interaction to refocus the projection of Joel's memory as it changed. Ten spotlights.
  • Production design - Fantastic use of the set to help tell the story through interaction and through motif. The overall effect made the memory projection believable, and at appropriate times left us questioning what was real and what was memory. Ten spotlights.
  • Special effects - shrunken effect, especially in the sink. Noteworthy.
  • Editing - the action flowed smoothly, captured good action and character reactions in very complicated shooting sequences, and put together a very coherent story despite complications. Ten spotlights.
  • Music - seamless, and complimented the action. Noteworthy.
  • Costume design - ?.
  • Choreography of the set with the character actions - Excellent. Ten spotlights.
  • Cinematography - well executed and told the story visually. Ten spotlights.

Story critique: what worked well, what didn't, and why?

The story could have degenerated so easily into a "lonely man meets crazy girl and they go on a wild ride," and maybe even fall in love type story. Kaufman chose to show us something better. This movie is a terrific example of combining a unique plot with unique characterization, a surprise, and revealing something fantastic about the human condition.

The opening, possibly could be stronger (more engaging), but it works fine. Part of the reason the opening (first 10 to 30 minutes) works well in this movie is because, rather than belabor points, the main characters are introduced, a strong romantic interest is demonstrated between them, the rift happens, and the decision is made to erase the memory. This is a lot, and comparable action could have taken much more of a movie. This is the story setup (character intro and plot set up), and is accomplished well during this time.

The surprise with Clementine is that she does not end up being the wild woman who sweeps through his life as they need each other for a time, and then scampers gleefully away. No, at the core of their relationship is real love for both. But real love doesn't mean an end to problems, or an end to "wildness" or any other personality quirk.

The unique story experience for the viewer is witnessing how much we add to each others lives, through good times and bad, as seen when important memories are extinguished piece by excruciating piece.

The unique plot is the idea of erasing a memory. How would that work? What would be the implications, simply a change in the texture of life? Would it actually change the destiny of human experience? The plot touches on each of these questions, with intriguing outcomes.

Spoiler: Don't read this paragraph if you haven't seen the movie. This movie is also a good example of subplots that work well to develop the plot. One of the technicians tries to have a relationship with Clementine. His actions, in acting like Joel, drive her back toward Joel. In another subplot, the past for the doctor and receptionist unravels, building the plot that people are compelled to have their relationships one way or another, and memory erasure doesn't necessarily change the inevitable in human nature. This strengthens the idea that Joel and Clementine may get back together, and builds anticipation for this.

The uniqueness of the characters drives the plot. Two ships on problem cruises glide into each other in the night and... who knew?

Symbols are also used very well in this movie. Various items trigger (represent) memories for the characters. Sometimes this is used overtly, as by the medical technicians. Sometimes it is part of the set.

What didn't work so well for me was the behavior of the medical professionals and their erasing of Joel's memory. To be sure, medical professionals do procedures in the home, and sometimes aren't completely professional. But I had a difficult time buying their very unprofessional conduct in the home during the erasure. But overall this didn't add up to enough to hurt the story.

Representative scene: If a picture could be painted that visually symbolized the entire story within it, there were perhaps two scenes that would do this. The first was the scene of Joel and Clementine in the kitchen sink, swirling out of control, as Clementine faded. The second was the scene of Joel standing alone beside a romantic table for two, with much of the surrounding restaurant faded or gone.

Symbolically the first scene symbolizes two people in a relationship, spinning recklessly out of control, fading, and with finality going down the drain. Symbolically the second scene symbolizes a romance with one partner missing, and the memory fading, and the one partner wanting the other back. Both of these scenes visually tell the story in one picture. I like the second scene best as a pictorial representation.

Another strong scene was where Joel lays on the bed with his head in the erasing machine, while the two medical assistants lay on each side of him, smoking pot, discussing things, and getting naked. Their comments enter into Joel's experience as he lays there semi-conscious, having his memory erased. Do you think that this scene better represents the movie? Why?

- Dorian (hey, it's actually me, Scott. Dorian is my first name.)


  • 10 Spotlights: The best of movie making, well worth seeing (rarely given)
  • 8 Spotlights: Good movie for the genre; may have minor technical or story problems but they hardly harm the enjoyment; clearly worth seeing; (most movies)
  • 6 Spotlights: Not bad, but has problems - worth seeing
  • 4 Spotlights: Caution - a "B" movie, probably will appeal only to some
  • 1 Spotlight: Caution - not recommended for any audience (will probably never be given)

My reviews are not based much on my personal taste, or any standard besides entertainment value. I try to be as objective as possible, keeping in mind that entertainment value is very subjective and individualized. If I'm not interested in a movie I usually don't go see it, so it doesn't get reviewed. Each character, and each position in the production company might be highlighted if the contribution affected the enjoyment of the story as either outstanding or dismal and I noticed it, keeping in mind that many contributions are singularly distinguished by their seamless integration with the story, not calling attention to themselves and thereby escaping attention.

- Dorian Scott Cole

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