Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler have a real chemistry, as anyone who's seen The Wedding Singer knows...in this, she's Lucy, a woman with brain damage who can't make new memories; every morning she awakes thinking it's the same Sunday in October, the day before her accident. Sandler's Henry falls in love with her at the diner where she breakfasts (and builds elaborate waffle houses) and then learns of her condition.
And endevours to make her fall in love with him, day after day. It's not easy...but he works at it. And that determination, that calm devotion, shown by Sandler is what makes the movie. He loves this woman, and he knows she loves him...or she would, if she could remember who he was. The ways he tries to help her are endearing (there's a video tape of the year she missed, which includes references to Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Red Sox), and the ending is just...adorable.
There's also a rather amusing appearance by former hobbit Sean Astin, as Lucy's brother.
Coincidentally, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind also features a former hobbit, this time Elijah Wood. It also stars a comic actor many people dislike, and it touches on many of the same concepts as 50 First Dates, namely love, memory, and what people go through, the work it takes, to make a relationship prosper.
It's also just plain brilliant.
Written by Charlie Kaufman, the insane genius behind Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, this film explores what happens when you try to erase a bad experience -- in this case, a failed romance -- from your memory. It takes place mostly in Jim Carrey's head over the night before Valentine's Day, during which he tries to have his girlfriend expunged from his life after finding out that's what she's done to him.
Only thing is, during the process he decides he doesn't want to erase her after all, and tries to hang onto to any memories of her he can.
The cast is perfect, the acting appropriately lowkey, and everything about it is just awe-inspiring. It has a way of seeing that we can all identify this; the theatre last night was almost entirely filled with couples, and at some point one half nudged the other half of each one to say, "That's like you!" or "See? We're not the only ones who do that!"
Also, interestingly, it's got a 94% "Fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes, one of the highest I've ever seen. Only one other movie I've looked up there has as high a rating: Lost in Translation.
This is a movie that you won't forget...and hopefully neither will the Academy.
It's very amusing to me, however, how many similar elements are in both of these very different movies. Based on similar concepts, expressed in different ways, they both employ art, journals and tapes (video and audio) as plot devices. They both have a tenuous chemistry between the leading characters, where at least one of them isn't entirely sure that being together is a good thing. They're both about brain damage (accidental and self-inflicted). And of course, they both inspire the same comparisons to Groundhog Day and Memento. Seen as a double feature, it's very interesting how much they have in common.