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Bob Kruger
Posted on Friday, March 12, 2004 - 10:58 am:   

Is now up:

http://www.electricstory.com/reviews/spotlessmind.asp

Bob
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JV
Posted on Thursday, March 25, 2004 - 07:34 am:   

Lucius:

I don't think the filmmakers really cared about the SF element except as a way to set up the emotional ramifications of the story. (And this actually makes the SF element more "believable" than any amount of focus on it.) For that reason, I think it's actually a mistake to ground your review in a discussion of SF movies. I liked the movie a lot--I thought it was wonderful and focused all the way through to the end. The moment at which the movie ends is the moment of honesty that it requires. But I don't think it belongs to a SF movie tradition.

I agree re Human Nature--which sucked.

JeffV
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, March 25, 2004 - 09:04 am:   

"I don't think the filmmakers really cared about the SF element except as a way to set up the emotional ramifications of the story. (And this actually makes the SF element more "believable" than any amount of focus on it.) For that reason, I think it's actually a mistake to ground your review in a discussion of SF movies"

Well, Jeff, since the review was written for two genre outlets, I doubt I would have gotten it printed if it hadn't been so grounded. That's one thing. Secondly, Kaufman likes to talk about himself as a genre guy and the film sent out invitations to critics screenings to genre reviewers, which is something that the producers of non-genre films don't do. Third, some of the marketing casts it as a science fiction film.

If you'll pardon me saying so, you seem to be saying more-or-less the same thing here that many people who get dissed on this forum say -- that because it's of a certain quality, because it has a lierary focus, it's not scifi. I mean there have been plenty of scifi books that have not focused on the science part of the story, that have focused rather on other aspects of narrative -- we have Ballard, Disch, Wells, Orwell, Vonnegut, Walter Tevis, ad infinitum as examples of this, and yet these men did write science fiction. You might say the same thing about much of their work that you say here:

"I don't think the filmmakers really cared about the SF element except as a way to set up the emotional ramifications of the story."

I know you can say the same thing about much of mine.

Kaufman is a spec fiction writer himself. All his scripts have at least flirted with the genre and Eternal Sunshine is square in the middle of the genre. In my mind, it would be inappropriate not to view it in terms of what Hollywood has done with the sub-genre mentioned in the review simply because it's better and more humanly focused than the usual product. I mean it's clearly based on a science fiction premise, and simply because it doesn't focus on the the hardware and deals more with the characters doesn't mean it's not genre, but rather that it's the kind of genre film many of us have been desiring.

I liked the movie a lot too...until the end. The end ruined it for me. It felt tacked on and not really honest, but putting forward a simplistic and somewhat forced making-a-point kind of honesty, one that struck me as invalidating of what had gone before; and when I snooted around I discovered that a much bleaker ending had originally attached.

If you liked the ending, that's fine. For me, it felt wrong. I thought the movie was brilliant up to a point and I felt really let down, because I thought I might be seeing a masterpiece. For me, the ending had a yuppie sensibility. That, oh-well-let's-just-go-for-it-even-though-we-kno-we'll-fiuck-it-up deal just didn't synch with the impairment of the characters. Too sunny by half. These are messed up people who've undergone a procedure that messed them up even more. They've been brain-damaged, and it doesn't seem like honesty to me to have them suddenly wax more responsible and on top of things and emotionally mature following the procedure than they were before it. The original ending made much more sense to me un terms of what had been set up to happen. But, you know, different strokes for different folks and all that.

Thanks for your input. It gave me the chance to say a couple of things that I couldn;t fit into the review. I appreciate it.

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MT
Posted on Friday, March 26, 2004 - 08:01 am:   

Mr. Shepard,

I'm a filmmaker who's just signed to do my first feature. I've read some of your reviews; I haven't agreed with all of them, but I can usually relate to your point of view.

First. a question. Was the script you saw with the different ending an unmarked script, free of notes and suggestions for changes? If not, then you probably saw a draft. If the script was unmarked, then you may be talking about one that was intended to be a shooting script.

To a certain extent, I agree with your take on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I would guess there were script changes made late in pre-production or possibly during principal photography to bring the script more in line with classic three-act structure. This would be done, as you say, in hopes of appealing to a wider audience, though I think it was too little too late. My problem with the movie lies with the characters. They're weak and uninteresting and were unlikely to have wide audience appeal no matter what structural changes were made. In the script, every 8 or ten pages, either Joel or Clementine says something to the effect that they don't have anything to say or that their life is boring, and this hammers the point home. It's not such an appealing point. You and JeffV both like these characters, but you're not typical of a wide audience. Neither am I. I went with the movie most of the way. But Charlie Kaufman's scripts are (in terms of wide audience appeal) typically dragged down by his characters. The concepts, even in this movie, wind up being more intriguing tnan the characters. Of all his scripts, only Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, the Chuck Barris semi-biography, avoids this pitfall, and that was mainly due to the character of Chuck Barris himself. What comes through to me from Kaufman's work is that he's more interested in concept than character. What sets him apart is that his take on concept is quirkier than that of a typical scriptwriter. It's hard to tell sometimes whether Kaufman is an artist attempting to survive in a commerical environment or a commercial writer trying to divest himself of an artistic twitch. Truthfully, I believe it's the latter. I would not be surprised to see him scripting more standard science fiction fare in the future.

Kaufman's in danger, I think, of having a short shelf life, becoming like a pop singer who has a big hit and keeps trying to repeat it. He has to enlarge his range or else he's going to be history. In the industry, history goes through its changes rapidly. Making a Jim Carrey movie that doesn't do a hundred million is not good for your career, no matter how many positive reviews you get. It would be a shame if this is what happens, because Kaufman is very talented. But you can't remain a curiosity forever in this business. Kaufman needs another hit and I believe he will either have to compromise his vision or expand it if he's to get that hit.

MT

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Lucius
Posted on Friday, March 26, 2004 - 01:39 pm:   

MT,

The script was unmarked,

I'm not quite clear from your post whether you think the characters in ESOTSM were weak only in that they were uncommercial or if you thought them weak from any viewpoint. If the former, then I basically agree; if the latter, then I'd have to ask, what sort of characters you find interesting? Boring people can be written about in interesting ways, and while Joel and Clementine won't go down in the pantheon of Great Characters, they served the concept and were sympathetic and their dialogue was cleverly written. I can see what you're saying about Kaufman possibly being a commercial writer in process of shaking artistic twitch, tjough it might be more to the point to say that the contradition between what he wants and what he needs as a writer is something he may be struggling with

ANyway, thanks for the comments and good luck with your project.

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