I finally have willed myself to watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and I have to say that it is a vastly better movie than The Truman Show. I say that in every single way you could possible mean that. The acting was miles above Truman. Jim Carrey does a way better job being Joel than he does Truman. Kate Winslet seemed to pair off with Mr. Carrey better than Laura Linney. Their characters were also in a dysfunctional relationship, and the two of them seemed to bring that out better. With Truman and Meryl, it just seems like they are married, annoy each other a couple times, have a fight, and then she leaves. With Joel and Clem (in Eternal Sunshine) you actually get a sense that these two people fell apart. I simply like their relationship better than the one between Truman and Meryl. Maybe it is because the majority of Eternal Sunshine takes place inside the mind of Joel. Having the movie told in that manner does give the audience more insight as to what our characters are thinking. Or, it could be that Jim Carrey had come into his own in between Truman and Eternal as a dramatic actor. I like to think that Jim Carrey had become a better actor. I really do.
Growth is a long process.
The visuals are more interesting as well. I get that Peter Weir was going for a ’50s-’60s era commercial with how he shot the movie and with everything else he did. But let’s face it, that style is just not that interesting. Television and movies have become more interesting as time has gone on. I am not talking about subject matter at all when I say that. Some early TV and film feels like it was directed or shot as it would appear on a stage production. This was in part because of the technological limitations of the time, but mostly because this was the style that a lot of the directors of that time felt comfortable working in. Film became more interesting when directors started experimenting. Not only does Eternal Sunshine have the benefit of modern technology to help the scenes look interesting, but it also had Michel Gondry. I absolutely love him as a director. If you have not seen anything by him, I recommend you do so right this fucking second… well, you can kind of skip The Green Hornet… that is not a good representation of his work.
There are actually things at stake in Eternal Sunshine. Joel is in very real danger of losing Clementine. Truman does not seem that phased by losing Meryl. Truman has Sylvia to go track down anyway. The only tension in The Truman Show is when Truman might be dead, ten minutes before the end of the movie. Having watched Truman for as many times as I have, I now kind of wish that was how the movie ends. Truman is killed in the storm Christof started. The movie is a tragedy and actually interesting. You could then claim that The Truman Show was saying that we could be careful about being too absorbed in our entertainment or it would consume us. That would be a better theme than the one that was invented after the movie about reality TV, mostly because it would be intended and not added after. You know, like a high school lit teacher trying to justify having their job.