‘Nova goes to Hollywood: Jim Carrey interview

Genevieve Giambanco

Clad in a 72-degree breeze, Los Angeles hides behind slate-like sunglass attitude, buzzes with limo- wedged traffic and smog; royal palm-lined streets roll out the sky-high green carpet introducing un-weathered tinsel town newbies to beautiful weather and beautiful people: welcome to Hollywood. A first-timer to the well-kept scene, I came prepared with everything I’d need to woo my soon-to-be interviewed A-list celebrities with cool, confident intellect: practiced questions and an East Coast disposition. This out-of-town aura became the social crutch helping me through the marble-lined foyer of The Four Seasons Beverly Hills and the subtle eyeballing performed by genetic specimens of perfection – women so toned and designer-robed, they were almost spectacles. With un-marred esteem and a changed outfit later, I passed Beverly Hills’ social hazing with flying colors; ready to engage in the table-talk to come with Hollywood’s cinematic movers and shakers of new indie-film breakout, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” Waiting in the cozy, ornate interview room, I remind myself that the job demands nothing less than entailing eye-locked, suppressed delirium in interrogative dialogue with super-actors Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Elijah Wood, Kirsten Dunst, Tom Wilkinson, Mark Ruffalo, director Michel Gondry and writer Charlie Kaufman. Ruminating amidst the rich air in this VIP hotel room, I let out a mental squeal of joy while self-mockingly chiding: “It’s an invasive, dirty job, but someone’s got to do it.”

The room is still with anticipatory murmurs and sweaty palms. Ears avert and everything falls silent; the dream-team celebrity entourage is en route, clacking through the segueing hallway. My journalistic spider sense detects the boisterous group approaching; it would only be moments. Like a swimmer testing ambiguous waters, out pops Carrey’s head to curiously check out the room. He must have detected pensive students deep in first-impression thought, because he slowly introduces his head to the doorway, as if easing the star-struck jaws of eager college reporters to his presence. Carry plays an unveiling striptease with the captivated room. First his familiar voice, then his closely-buzzed head, and at last, the gesture-driven lanky figure glides in dramatically to assault the room; at this moment, the man is a physical and comedic giant among minors. “There are more of us than you,” he howls, scrutinizing the small room entrenched with an even smaller group of students. The devilish grin sets up the first of many humorous utterances; he leads in the rest of the talented cast and playfully urges, “Red Rover!”

After the barrage of hugs and canine-pitched excitement (worthy of a 10-year high school reunion) simmered down among the close-knit cast, the famous figures took their seats and gushed recklessly about opinions and thoughts on their latest cinematic accomplishment – an introspective, philosophy-laden love story. “Eternal” boasts all the staples of a Charlie Kaufman masterpiece; protagonist-driven, bittersweet, surreal ideas meet the painfully real beat of life, love and problems.

The film gravitates around the relationship of honest, soft-spoken Joel Parish (Jim Carrey) and dramatic, seemingly bi-polar Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet). Dissatisfied with Joel, Clementine decides her only salvation for happiness is to delete Joel from her memory with a brain procedure offered through Lacuna office’s Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson). When Joel discovers her rash attempt at moving on, Joel decides to second Clementine’s decision to eradicate the memory of their relationship. When it’s too late to salvage, Joel discovers their true love through re-living the precious time and memories he seeks to delete. It is only through looking at himself through a detached other standpoint, that he can evaluate their life together. Essentially, “Eternal” stands as Nietzche-infused message of self-healing and understanding through introspection, and namely, life.

“For all of us we felt Joel and Clementine’s relationship is very real,” Winslet said. “In no relationship can you possibly live every day as if it’s the first time you’ve ever met. I personally just love that about this film, that although the story is told in this crazy unorthodox way, that it’s actually a very simple love story about two people who are really meant to be together, despite this horrendous thing that they do.”

Carrey seconds her insight, adding, “It’s romantic and yet it’s not romanticized. It’s a real love full of compromise and everything else that love comes with.”

For devout Jim Carrey fans used to over-the-top energy, this movie comes as a shock; Carrey tames his bombastic persona to play a sedate and inexpressive Joel Parish. Winslet’s character, Clementine, is juxtaposed against Carrey’s, assuming his token wacky antics and crazed personality. Regarding this stark, on-screen personality swap, Carrey admits, “Fortunately, Kate was really good at being like that. She played that in this movie; she was the outward manifestation of Joel’s insanity and the thing that he can’t express.” In regard to his drone character, Carrey still finds himself through his cloudy character: “I never want to be humorless as a human being. Humor comes out of these situations. If you don’t have that, then it’s a very boring movie to me. You’re looking for what’s real about it.”

Winslet, who purposefully avoided preparation for her character’s spark plug personality, reflects on her usual typecast in regal roles: “I knew that I was walking into something that was a complete departure for me and totally different from everything I’ve ever done. I am very used to really preparing for certainly period pieces, because you have to know so much about where these people came from and what they wore and how they walked and how they spoke and all of that stuff. With this one, I tried to almost frighten myself a little bit.”

If the plot and cinematography of the movie were to read as a book, it would uncannily take form as a sister-work to Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland.” The dream-like sequences and surreal blur of magical imagery mimics the skillfully trippy chronology Lewis immortalized in “Alice.” On seeing a final draft of the film, Winslet shares, “I was completely freaked out, frankly. I knew what we had shot and I knew what the story was, but in the editing room, Michelle and his editor had changed the order of things to a really extreme extent – it was very confusing and frightening at first. But at the end of the movie, I thought, ‘God damnit, it just works.'”

The breathtaking compilation of efforts on this film does justice to the professional here say lodging Gondry and Kaufman’s reputation somewhere in the stratosphere. Playing on their supreme skills, Carrey exalts “For me, the special effect in this movie is the script. You don’t need a whole lot of bells and whistles when you have a story that hits home. I was part of a troop in this movie. All our characters in one way or another are in the same boat as the audience.”

Known for his famous efforts in creating music videos (recently Daft Punk’s “Around the World”), Gondry claims working with a movie production is “more difficult and painful. In using a visual to convey the idea of the loss of memory, we didn’t want to have an exploitation of effect and technology. We thought that memories should feel real. It should just be a simple illusion that goes through the film. We had to find some tricks to transform that. What I learned in music videos was to shoot people on a level of equality. With this film, we refer to life more than the movie’s medium. I tried to be invisible as a director, I wanted to let people live and exist.”

As time wrapped, a silenced Dunst and Wood sat “uh-huh-ing” their peers’ heartfelt responses with expressive eyes and head nods. Both actors having survived the dangerous limbo between a successful child-acting career and present-day super-stardom, Dunst and Wood give due thanks to their choices in picking roles. In the film, Dunst graces the silver screen swaying emaciated hips in an outfit consisting of well, her underwear. As previously crimson-haired “Spiderman” starlet, Dunst speaks up on her choice of jobs, including her latest: “I just choose intuitively. It mirrors my life, kind of in the roles that I pick.” Wood picks up where Dunst leaves off, noting “I want to continue to be challenged and grow, and be a part of different films with different perspectives. It changes from one year to the next, though; it’s hard to find a good script.”

Just as the actor lineup begins to once again, feel each other out and make headway in a two-man dominated show, or rather interview, time is up and the high-profile group is late for their 12 o’clock. The students are anxious to hear why, in an age of raunchy comedy and window-fogging sex scenes, a college-bound audience should shell out their diminishing cash to see a surreal philosophy flick they could conjure while reading Nitzche? Not one to leave without a comedic bang, Carry dishes out his last room-roaring, knee-slapper of the sunny afternoon, replying, “Spiderman’s girlfriend dancing in her underwear and a hobbit! Right, that’s a formula for success.”