Sunday, 7 September 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2004: Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Jim Carrey did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, and a BAFTA, for portraying Joel Barish in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a rather wonderful film about the romance between to people after one has the other erased from her memory, and he decides to follow suit.

Jim Carrey is obviously known best as a comedian and comedic actor, and his style is very much all about his flamboyant actions. From his ability to his contort his face, and his wild man antics in his performances Carrey is not always known for taking the subtle approach. In the role of Joel Barish Carrey is a very different actor. It is not even the case that the role of Joel Barish is Carrey being cast against type, that's not really the case as it is very easy to see how Carrey could have gone down a more usual path with his performance, but rather he chooses to give an extremely atypical performance. Carrey is at his most reserved here as he plays Joel Barish who there is nothing overly special about him technically speaking. When we first meet him he is simply going to work, somewhat pondering his problems in regards to love where he seems to meet Clementine (Kate Winslet) for the first time. Now she on the other hand is rather flamboyant in her personality but despite this contrast the focus of the film is on their relationship together.

But before I get to the crux of the film I want to focus a bit more on simply Carrey's portrayal of Joel, which is so different from his other work as an actor. The funny thing is that technically this is a comedic performance in nature yet not once does Carrey really go for any humorous type of style with his performance. There are even scenes where this might seem like the extremely obvious thing to do such as when Joel visits his memories during his childhood and technically Carrey is playing Joel as a kid. That would seem time for Carrey to go for his usual routine, but Carrey still plays these scenes basically to the point. They of course comedic in nature anyway, but Carrey never takes them to make an absurd spectacle of himself. There is an absurdity of course in there as a grown man is being a child of himself, but again Carrey really let's it all play out in its own still quite effective yet rather understated way much like the entirety of his performance.

Carrey, with his performance, works in creating the very particular tone that film develops. Carrey seems absolutely of the atmosphere that the film creates in his approach to Joel particular manner. It is a very interesting characterization that Carrey makes in Joel Barish as he realizes Joel as such a particular sort of man. Carrey plays the part with a quiet earnestness, yet a certain shyness as well as he makes Joel so very particular without ever seeming quirky in any way. Carrey always made me feel I know exactly the type of guy Joel is and Carrey does wonders in almost making the dreamy quality of the film with his somewhat breezy style of performance. The thing is Carrey makes Joel light in a way while never making this just a light sort of performance. Instead he realizes this quiet manner so well that even as Joel is going through some rather intense emotional turmoil due to the sudden and very odd thing that happens to him Carrey stays fairly understated yet it always seems exactly how Joel should be.

Now what truly makes the film special in terms of the performances is the chemistry between Carrey and Winslet. When naming two actors before this film this duo probably would not be the first to many people's minds as a perfect pair for a film but one could not ask for a stronger chemistry between two actors than what is displayed between Carrey and Winslet here. The film has an interesting progression as the film actually starts at the end (and technically beginning) of their relationship. In their very first scene together though it seems as though Joel and Clementine are meeting for the first time. Winslet plays Clementine as very much forward and extroverted which is quite different from Carrey in his rather reserved work. Most of the talking is done by Winslet in the scene yet you see two people coming together so eloquently and believable despite their differences. Carrey is terrific in the way he balances the shyness of Joel with notable but subtle enthusiasm toward Clementine. It's a delicate dynamic but one that is perfectly realized by both Winslet and Carrey.

We fairly quickly though jump into seeing the final stages of their old relationship which was erased from their memories. It is terrific how naturally they showed the start of love then proceed to show the dismantlement  of it. Both once again are great in the way they show how respectively the two of them have seemed to have lost their connect. Winslet shows a distance through Clementine as seeming to have lost interest with Joel, while Carrey on the other hand portrays Joel as basically a desperate and bitter man who seems to have only become more introverted from having lost the spark in this relationship. The sudden jump is brilliantly handled by them as they are absolutely convincing in both the end and beginning of their relationship. Of course the rest of the film mostly depicts Joel as he tries to hold on to his memories of Clementine even though he has already given into having the procedure done. This leaves Joel in an attempt to try to hide in his other memories in a futile attempt to hold onto the slowly diminishing memories he has of Clementine.

These scenes really are a technically odd set of scenes with their often surreal imagery as well as the way it is often comedic in style despite the fact that it is truly a romantic idea that is foundation for it all. The romantic elements technically are quiet low key in every way even in the way in which Carrey and Winslet play it. The thing is though there is such a warmth and honest connection the two are able to make through the characters even when they are doing things that might seem a bit strange. They are consistently funny without being ever cloying yet still make the strange things they do at time feel natural part of their relationship. What is the best part of it is how lovely they make all of it together, and Carrey and Winslet make it seem that Joel and Clementine should be together despite the fact that they seem destined not to be. They beautifully realize this bizarre dynamic and make it heartbreaking in its own very unusual way. The film is well directed, but it could have just been a series of cool looking images, the emotional core of the film comes from the great performances of Winslet and Jim Carrey which seem to be in perfect tandem.


Michael McCarthy said...

Another 5 for my childhood hero :) does tho mean you're moving Winslet up to a 5 as well?

Matt Mustin said...

Love this movie and this performance. It seems like you liked this film a lot more this time around.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Yay! How would you rank the Kaufman films you seen.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Also thoughts and ratings on the rest of the cast?

Kevin said...

What would be your new ranking for your top 10 films of 2004?

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I'm not surprised you liked it more this time around. The same thing happened to me. Granted, I watched it with my parents the first time, and all they did was bitch about how "weird" it was.

Anonymous said...

Louis, I'm curious, what are your ratings and thoughts on Greta Garbo in every film you've seen of her?

luke higham said...

Final Ranking Prediction
1. Ganz
2. Bardem
3. Carrey
4. Bacon
5. Giamatti

mark said...

I thought Winslet wiped the floor with everyone that yeara true original and something i wish she would try and be a bit more daring again,what are your thoughts on the performances in

closer esp Roberts
million dollar baby
vera drake
ray esp Sharon Warren
the manchurian candidate esp Meryl..

RatedRStar said...

One of my most angry moments, of award ceremonys, is at that years golden globes, in that best actor category with Carrey and Foxx, has anyone seen Foxxs golden globe win, Jim Carrey looked like he was having fun and making people laugh, Foxx just looked arrogant, the fact that people were cheering for him makes me hate him even more than I usually do.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Thoughts/rating for:

William Holden in The Bridge on the River Kwai

Van Heflin and Glenn Ford in 3:10 to Yuma

Jack Lemmon in Irma La Douce

RatedRStar said...

@Louis: By the time you probably get to supporting 2004 ill probably be asleep or summat so dont forget my winning request =D.

Anonymous said...

Louis, have you seen The Fault in Our Stars? I was expecting a too sentimental movie but it surprised me greatly and all the actors did pretty good jobs, especially Woodley who's simply heartbreaking.

Louis Morgan said...

Michael: Winslet's now a five as well.

Matt: Yes the film grew on me considerably.


1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
2. Adaptation
3. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
4. Being John Malkovich

Ruffalo - 3(His role is fairly simplistic as the nerd operating the thing, then just eventually the jealous boyfriend. His character's all rather unassuming but Ruffalo does a fine job of making his character understandable the whole time, and rather nicely handles the nerdy qualities of the character.)

Wood - 3(Wood again has a simple role, but he's enjoyable enough in how unabashedly sleazy and obvious he is in his portrayal of his character's courting of Clementine)

Wilkinson - 3.5(Wilkinson at first is just good in playing the basically the minister of exposition doing it well and making the unreal concept seem very down to earth and by the books. Wilkinson though is quite effective though once it's revealed there is a bit more to his character)

Dunst - 4(She's actually quite good in being the slightly daffy office girl who also is revealed to be a bit more. She's a very believable flake and manages to be charming in her own particular way. When more is revealed about her though Dunst is terrific in playing the emotional stress of her character, and the way he technically changes her very nature)

Holden - 4.5(Excellent work from him bringing the right sorta sardonic realism that is the perfect counterpoint to the delusions of some of the other characters. Holden's role could have been easily preachy or just kinda bland but he plays it with a sly charm while making his speech later on very well earned by that point)

Heflin - 4(Heflin gets the less flamboyant role but I think Heflin does more with the less he has. Heflin is very good at showing his character's personal struggle mostly through some fairly subtle emotional reactions. He's good in his early scenes of an uneasy contentment, but effectively turns this into a searing determination in the final scene)

Ford - 4(Much of what I have seen of Ford suggests he's not all that great, but here he does have quite a bit of fun in portraying the flamboyant style of his colorful villain. I do think he might overplay it a bit a times and he might have brought a little more in a few scenes, but overall I think his performance works)

Lemmon - 3(Very standard comic performance from him. He does not go too over the top to become annoying here, but there just isn't that spark you find in say The Apartment and Mister Roberts)

Louis Morgan said...


Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban
Hotel Rwanda
Kill Bill Vol. 2
Shaun of the Dead

In Alphabetical order since I have a few re-watches in order.


Every film? Well at the moment I have not seen that much Garbo. Anyways though from what I have seen she has quite the screen presence and a quality that's all her own.

Conquest - 3(This is not a very good role for her but she does offer some charm and grace to a severely underwritten role)

Grand Hotel - 4(She's incredibly luminous in this role, and captures the essence of her overly emotional starlet character quite artfully)

Ninotchka - 5(An absolutely winning performance. Her first half is an amazing display of an extreme deadpan sort of performance. Every one of her stern looks and line deliveries are extremely hilarious. When she finally laughs though Garbo does an excellent job of shifting to a rather charming, if more traditional, turn from her)

Louis Morgan said...


Law - 2.5(I seem to always prefer Law when he's not the lead. I never found he really made much of a character out of his character. In that he said the lines just fine and everything but I never really saw any emotional drive in his portrayal, or some lust to explain the way his character was constantly shifting from Portman's to Robert's characters)

Roberts - 2(I really feel the same way about her as I do Law, although I think it has a few instances where she delivers much more as Julia Roberts than as the character she is suppose to playing)

Portman - 2(All I can say here is that I did not buy anything facet of what she did with the character. Everything about her performance seemed to add up to nothing, and not as though her character was truly empty or anything like that either. I don't love Owen in it but he really was by far the best)

Million Dollar Baby:

Swank - 2.5(Like Freeman I feel she plays her performance in an oddly dour fashion at all times, and I'm always waiting for one those two to really bring some life to their parts but they never do. I found Swank for the most part did some really standard work with some occasional overacting when she was either being the hillbilly or the woman fighter side of her character. The big emotional scenes at the end really are all about Eastwood, and they really show just how little Swank does with her character)

(Just about everyone else is pretty hideously one note)


Warren - 3(She was the best I suppose as she brought enough warm and believability in the very standard loving mother role. As those sorta roles go though I've seen far more memorable ones)

Washington - 2.5(Again quite standard role of the long-suffering wife. She's not really bad but just does not anything special either)

Everyone else I thought was pretty forgettable.

The Manchurian Candidate:

Washington - 3.5(Very solid leading turn from him. He conveys the paranoia and slowly growing distress of his character quite well. It's easy to follow him through the thriller and he handles his more emotional scenes rather well)

Schreiber - 3.5(He's pretty much always good and that's the case here as well. Schreiber does the brainwashing scenes well by never making them too goofy looking, and is quite effective in the rather quietly intense way he handles the extremely emotional scenes for his character)

Streep - 3.5(She's no Angela Lansbury who just was perfect for the part. The problem is Streep kinda forces comparison as she takes basically the similair approach with the part. The main difference is she goes a little louder in some certain scenes, and creates just a less memorable version of the character. I still think she is solid as the cold evil mother, even if her performance feels a bit on the nose)

Ganz - 3(Ganz is good in creating a character who seems quiet interesting, and does a great job of suggesting a lot despite having so little at his disposal. Unfortunately though the film never really bothers to explain who he is, and what happened to him. I did like his performance though)

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I would give Denzel a higher score and Streep a lower core for Manchurian Candidate. Denzel was easily my favorite thing about the film. Streep, on the other hand, gave possibly her most selfish, showboating performances to date.

Louis Morgan said...


I have not seen it since 04 so I might have been a bit generous to Streep and stingy to Washington.