The good news for those still scratching their heads over Charlie Kaufman's latest mindfuck is that Eternal Sunshine makes a lot more sense on second viewing. Well, maybe not a lot more sense. But with less effort required to decipher the chronology, multiple realities and freaky visuals, you can at least relax a bit and enjoy what, beneath the surreal flourishes, is really a deeply moving meditation on love and loss.
It's unfortunate that Michel Gondry's pic - his second collaboration with Kaufman after the little-seen Human Nature - came out amidst a tsunami of memory-erasure movies (Paycheck, 50 First Dates). It's not Charlie's fault: after all, he first pitched the idea in 1998. But the fact remains that the fulcrum on which his script pivots, - a private clinic that deletes painful pasts from its clients' crania, - simply isn't surprising anymore.
What is surprising is Kate Winslet's mercurial performance as Clementine, the orange-haired wild-child who breezes into Jim Carrey's life with all the momentum of Hurricane Frances. It's a fabulous, unexpected turn that leaves her co-star standing - although since he's playing Kaufman's morose stand-in, there's not much he can do about it. Jim spends most of the film trying to remove her from his memory. Just try erasing her from yours.