Valentine’s Day Edition: Meet Me in Montauk
It’s become something of a cliche to say that the romantic comedy is a dying genre, but I think it might at least be on a ventilator. What was the last really good one? The last romantic comedy as good as Broadcast News, let alone, say, His Girl Friday?
My favorite movie of the modern era that might be called a relationship movie is not really a romantic comedy – although it’s very funny in many places, in that kind of laugh-to-keep-from-crying way – and it is, indeed, set on Valentine’s Day. It’s mostly about a relationship, but it’s also about the human mind and storytelling. And depending on your mood and your general feelings about love at the moment, it can be read as either hopeful or depressing. I think it’s both – or anyway, it’s about as hopeful as a movie can be while still recognizing certain depressing realities. Yep, I’m talking about Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
When I first saw it, at Brooklyn Heights Cinemas, I was not in a good place, romantically speaking, and while I loved it immensely I also thought it was incredibly sad. Now, while I certainly won’t claim it’s an inspiring cupful of cheer, I take a less bleak view. Not so much that love will triumph (the odds are against it, in this film) but that love is worth it. Or, okay, at the very least inevitable. It’s one of those movies that’s a bit of a Rorschach blot. And beyond the central story of Joel (Jim Carry the last time he was good) and Clementine (a fantastic Kate Winslet), there’s a fairly spectacular subplot featuring mind-twisting sci-fi, Mark Ruffalo, Kirstin Dunst, the great Tom Wilkinson, and Elijah Woods in the role he was born to play, a whiny creep. The structure is complex and twisty but always somehow comprehensible in a way that’s pretty much brilliant and explains why I will always have nothing but love for screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, and his darker and more intellectual style bounces perfectly off Michel Gondry’s whimsical and less tightly-wound direction. And did I mention the soundtrack is fantastic too? The trailer really doesn’t do this movie credit:
I’ve never gone out to Montauk on Valentine’s Day. But I bet if you did, you’d find some very cold, lovelorn people with good taste in movies.