On the tenth anniversary of its theatrical release, plenty still sticks out in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. There’s the seamless, low-budget blend of sci-fi and romance. There’s the trippy visuals, starting with a blue hairdo that puts Lea Seydoux’s to shame. Oh, and there’s Jim Carrey’s refreshingly non-terrifying appearance. But a re-watch of Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman’s dorm-room staple, ten years down the road, reveals an achievement viewers in 2004 literally didn’t have the words to articulate: a rebuttal to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, back when Zooey Deschanel was still the lady from Elf.
At first glance, Clementine Kruczynski is a dead ringer for Nathan Rabin’s definition of the now-ubiquitous term: a “bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” When she meets Carrey’s Joel Barish for what the audience eventually learns is the second time, she’s a zany ball of energy babbling on about ill-advised names for hair dyes. In a matter of hours, she’s teaching her very own broodingly soulful young man to embrace life, or at least the risk of falling through the ice on the Charles River.