8 · Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Strange movies are hard to pull off. One that succeeded spectacularly was 2001’s Donnie Darko, so I was sorry to see that the Director’s Cut didn’t. In fact, it may be my least favourite director’s cut of all. Richard Kelly basically took all of the DVD extras and shoehorned them back into the movie, extending its length by 20 minutes. What was perfectly paced became ponderous; what was mysterious has been over-explained. The beauty of the original was that you weren’t always sure whether you were watching a tale of madness, of parallel worlds, or what; now it’s just a straight science fiction movie. Worse, the teen-movie aspect has been overshadowed by some completely gratuitous computer-graphics linking segments, which add nothing but already look dated. This is one case where the constraints imposed by the studio worked to the movie’s benefit.

Another slightly disappointing Strange Movie was I Heart Huckabees, David O. Russell’s attempt to out-Kaufman Charlie Kaufman. I had high hopes for it, because his Gulf War caper Three Kings was one of my favourites from a great year for movies, but despite being fairly entertaining Huckabees didn’t add up to much. The star power of Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin as the “existential detectives” seemed out of place, and the comic scenes a little too forced. But Jason Schwartzman, Jude Law and Mark Wahlberg were all good, and some of those forced scenes were funny, so it was worth a look.

Back to the source, then. I wasn’t that keen on Adaptation, but Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was a return to form for Charlie Kaufman, even if nothing can have the freshness of Being John Malkovich. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet were natural and always watchable, the fantastical story was intriguing rather than silly, and the musings on love and memory were worth musing on afterwards. Pending a late run by Napoleon Dynamite (which starts in the UK at the end of the week) or Garden State (a couple of weeks later), it’s my Strange Movie of the year.

Here’s what people said about this entry.

I forgot to mention another Strange Movie of this year (which I saw at a free preview, so didn’t have a stub to remind me): Big Fish, by long-time Strange Director Tim Burton. Not as satisfying as some of his past work, but it had its moments.

Added by Rory on a Monday in December.