Two of the most critically acclaimed romantic films of the early 21st century are collected together here: ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND and LOST IN TRANSLATION.
ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND is an unconventional romance told in the abstract, inventive, and comedic storytelling style of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. Like his scripts for ADAPTATION and BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, this plot works off of a relatively complex idea that is more easily explained through the language of film than through words. In its most basic description, Joel (Jim Carrey) is undergoing a medical procedure to erase the memory of his ex-girlfriend, Clementine (Kate Winslet). However, while he is unconscious and the procedure is underway, he takes a journey through his mind, reliving moments with Clementine for fear of losing her forever. Using disjointed sound and action, foggy periods indicating Joel's confusion, and flashbacks to childhood where objects appear much bigger than they are to adult eyes, the cinematography communicates Joel's dilemma with visual hilarity. Only occasionally is the film laugh-out-loud funny; instead it is much more deeply and darkly amusing as the absurdity of the situation grows. ETERNAL SUNSHINE is nothing short of brilliant--a credit to director Michel Gondry (who has a topnotch reputation for his aesthetic music videos by artists such as Bjork). Carrey is wonderfully understated in the role of a simpleminded nice guy, and his signature goofiness is used only a handful of times. Winslet lights up the screen with her blue hair and orange sweatshirt, playing a lively free spirit and loose cannon. There are also strong supporting performances by Kirsten Dunst, Elijah Wood, and Mark Ruffalo, along with an excellent score by Jon Brion and a peppy soundtrack including songs by E.L.O. and the Polyphonic Spree. The film's conclusion promises to satisfy viewers; it offers a beautiful metaphor for the end of a love affair that brings perfect closure to this excellent film.
Sofia Coppola's second feature-length film focuses on two guests at a Tokyo hotel--Bob (Bill Murray), a middle-aged actor in town to film whiskey commercials, and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), the young wife of a trendy photographer (Giovanni Ribisi) who is always out on a shoot. When Bob isn't on the job taking fragmented direction from the Japanese crew, he's receiving faxes on home decorating from his emotionally distant wife. And while her husband is away, Charlotte spends most of her time trying to motivate herself to do more than look out the window at Tokyo's urban sprawl. So when the two meet in the hotel bar, they strike up an unusual friendship, one that provides a welcome escape from their boredom and loneliness.
With LOST IN TRANSLATION, Coppola cements her reputation as a thoughtful and inventive filmmaker. Every element of the movie is pitch-perfect, from the dreamy, atmospheric score to the expertly timed editing to the lingering shots of the characters and the city. Most importantly, Coppola's minimalist script allows Murray and Johansson to give astonishingly moving yet subtle performances as people who are lost in the limbo of a foreign country, but find each other for comfort and companionship. Both heartbreakingly sad and hilariously funny, Coppola's LOST IN TRANSLATION is that rare movie in which everything is in its right place.