#248. Erased Memories

We all have memories we want to forget. Whether it’s the trauma of abuse from our youth or the stupid thing we said in an important meeting, everyone longs for a simple solution to erase our memories. Memory is such a fickle element of our minds, but it is usually driven by emotions. We are more likely to recall happy memories of a summer day when we smell a sun-drenched field. We are more likely to recall a hurtful breakup when a special song plays on the radio. We are more likely to recall an embarrassing firing when we see a particular business’ building. While just removing the stimulus for these memories is one way to help us forget, the underlying emotions still linger. As scientists research methods of restoring the memories of Alzheimer patients, nobody is performing the corollary research to help people forget. This week’s two films look at the repercussions of erasing one’s memories.

                                      Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindEternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Year: 2004
Rating: R
Length: 108 minutes / 1.8 hours

One of the most emotional times of a person’s life is during a relationship. There are the highs of the original infatuation, lingering thoughts, and spontaneous romance, but there are also the lows of disagreements, fights, and (sometimes) an eventual break-up. Needless to say, a break-up is one of the most depressing events that can happen in a person’s life (right up there with losing a job). Because the ending of a relationship is such a difficult set of emotions to deal with, all the previous, enjoyable emotions and memories are spoiled by the eventual split. We tend to associate songs, places, and items to our relationships that would otherwise have no emotional link in our lives. In removing our memories of these things, we can completely forget the relationship, were it not for the gaping hole in our heart that is still left behind.

Lacuna, Inc. is a firm based in New York City that can remove memories from a person’s brain. The main application of Lacuna’s technology is to remove memories of relationships. After Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet) had her memories erased, Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) followed suit, undergoing the procedure after he learned she erased the memories of their time together. While in his subconscious, Joel attempts to save the good memories of the relationship, while having the bad memories fade away. Of course, Lacuna, Inc. is not above reproach in these procedures, their many employees using the technology to establish relationships with clients and erase their own infidelities. One of the employees learns about this and manages to steal these reports and disseminates them to all of Lacuna’s clients, giving them a second chance to decide their own fate.

Total RecallTotal Recall
Year: 1990
Rating: R
Length: 113 minutes / 1.88 hours

Because neural science is such a delicate field of medicine, little can be done to restore or erase memories. Granted, erasing memories can be easily achieved by blunt head trauma, but restoring them is a bit trickier. Perhaps this is why the idea of erasing and restoring memories is such a good topic for science fiction. Philip K. Dick has two short stories that deal with targeted memory erasure (like in Paycheck (2003)) and targeted memory restoration (like in Total Recall (1990)). Of course, the memory restoration in Total Recall is merely an accident, as the true ability of Rekall’s equipment is to implant false memories into a person’s mind to make them think they had actually done something they never had. Restoring true memories to a person’s mind is much more difficult, mostly due to the numerous variables at play when a memory is created (like in Inception (2010)).

Unlike Lacuna, Inc., Rekall is a company that implants memories of relaxing vacations into its clients’ minds. Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is an unassuming working-man who decides to get the procedure to satisfy his dreams of going to Mars. When the technician encounters a problem, Rekall erases the memories of Quaid’s visit to their facility. However, upon being attacked on his way home, Quaid finds the “secret agent” memories that were supposedly part of his Rekall vacation are still in his mind. In reality, he was a secret agent all along, but the memories of his job were erased after he was no longer needed. Now that his secret agent abilities have been reawakened, Quaid proceeds to take a trip to Mars to fulfill the dreams that had haunted him and provoked him to visit Rekall in the first place.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 missing memories

#247. Jim Carrey

There are actors, then there are over-actors. One would be hard-pressed to think of an actor who overacts more than Jim Carrey. Sure, the slapstick comedians of the silent era might come close, but Carrey’s extremely physical comedy is what sets him apart from everyone else. Perhaps Lisa Simpson (in a fictitious 2010) said it best, “He can make you laugh with no more than a frantic flailing of his limbs.” That’s not to say Jim Carrey hasn’t done serious films, it’s more that he is best known for his exaggerated gesticulation. And while his latest works haven’t been able to recapture the prime of his career in the mid-1990s, the fact remains that these ’90s comedies are easily remembered due to his overacting. That being said, this week’s two films highlight some very poignant and heartfelt performances from Jim Carrey.

The Truman ShowThe Truman Show
Year: 1998
Rating: PG
Length: 103 minutes / 1.72 hours

While his earliest work was in television, Jim Carrey didn’t appear in many films before 1994. Of note is a minor part in the final film of the Dirty Harry series, The Dead Pool (1988), which was by no means a comedy. But, in 1994, Carrey took the world by storm with three films cementing his status as a goofy comedian: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber. The following year, he would continue with a sequel Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, as well as a marginally more serious role as The Riddler in Batman Forever. Subsequent years saw him in The Cable Guy (1996) and Liar Liar (1997) before he settled down a little to make The Truman Show (1998). While the role as Truman Burbank was a bit more subdued than his comedic roles, it revealed that Jim Carrey did have a slightly more substance than shouting and flailing.

Forced to live in a world where he feels like he never quite fits in, Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) keeps putting on the mask of a perfect husband, friend, and neighbor. This façade has lasted for 30 years as he attempts to blend in with the “perfect” actors who surround him. Almost in response to his nagging doubts about the reality he has been subjected to, Truman unexpectedly gets a few peeks behind the curtain of the fabricated town of Seahaven. Truman finds his wanderlust to discover a place where he belongs has many barriers, not the least of which is a fear of drowning. The irony is that Seahaven and the surrounding island were explicitly made for him by Christof (Ed Harris) and that Truman is the center of a long-running reality TV show. Still, Truman’s persistence pays off as he finally finds the end of his world and his freedom from it.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindEternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Year: 2004
Rating: R
Length: 108 minutes / 1.8 hours

The aforementioned Truman Show was a bit of a turning point for Jim Carrey’s career. He still would go on to do comedies, such as Me, Myself & Irene (2000) and Bruce Almighty (2003), but the more serious roles had been breached to moderate success. Putting some of the silliness aside, Carrey would try to capitalize on this with Man on the Moon (1999) and The Majestic (2001). Unfortunately, by 2007, he had gone too far with the psychological thriller, The Number 23. The sweet spot of this non-comedic progression was most definitely seen in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004). It is unfortunate that the poorly-received The Number 23 killed off some of Jim Carrey’s ambition to star in dramatic roles, as the comedies he has made lately make us wonder if he still has the chops to pull off another Eternal Sunshine.

In a rare treat, Jim Carrey is cast as Joel Barish, an introverted and stiff man who finds himself starting a relationship with the wild and unpredictable Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet). Even though their personalities are diametrically opposed, they can’t help being attracted to each other. The reason for this is soon revealed on a train ride from Montauk, New York, where they find out that they had actually been in a committed relationship for two years before it ended badly. To forget the emotional trauma, Clementine had her memories erased, which led to Joel undergoing the same procedure. However, as the bad times are removed, the good ones remain, and Joel attempts to hide them in the deepest recesses of his mind, not willing to let go of her, even if it is in his dreams. Unfortunately, every last memory is erased, but not before a memory of Clementine tells him to meet her in Montauk.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 clever Carrey castings

Bacon #: 2 (Bruce Almighty / Jennifer Aniston -> Picture Perfect / Kevin Bacon)