20 Oct 2014

MANIC PIXIE DREAM GIRL - Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (2004)

Film genres have formulas and rules, but how well do films follow those formulas?  What about the Manic Pixie Dream Girl character, does she have rules?

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) - includes a possible MPDG claiming to be more than just a concept, but is she a MPDG or not?

The Following may contain SPOILERS for Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (2004)

The trailer.


1a.  POV Character - Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) is the central character, and much of the film is within his head.  Outside of scenes with or within Joel we only really scenes with Lacuna staff (including Patrick who is dating Clementine.)  So while we get a little beyond Joel, it isn't really about Clementine (Kate Winslet).
The Bechdel Test:  Clementine (or Joel's version of her as Pat Hamlyn) talks to Joel's unnamed mother about Joel with one line about having a drink.  Mary Svevo talks to unnamed customers on the phone and to Hollis Mierzwiak but about Mary's affair with Howard, Hollis's husband.   Fail.
The Mako Mori Test:  Clementine says she's more than a concept, but in this film, especially the version of her she actually is.  Fail.

1b.  Unhappy – Joel refers to himself as being like a scared little kid and is upset by the disdain in her voice when he doesn't want to do something impulsive.
i.  Job - All we see about his job is that after the memory wipe he skips work for the day, with that not being his style.
ii.  Relationship – In a relationship with Naomi, "nice" and loved him.  "Nice is good."  Wonders why he falls in love with every woman he sees who shows him the least bit of attention.
iii.  Belongings – Only during and after the erasure to belongings become an issue.
iv.  Bereavement – No bereavenment.
v.  Life – Seems unhappy.
vi.  Doesn't seem happy with his life or with the change that Clementine brings to it.

RULE #2 - T &A

Kate Kinslet in a bra and a couple of underwear crotch shots. Kirsten Dunst and Mark Ruffalo in their underwear (and Mark's bare butt and Kirsten's naked back.)  Mostly Rom-Com level nudity, perhaps a little beyond, but not significantly.


Wikipedia calls the film a "romantic science-fiction comedy-drama film."  Although I've thrown the other romantic drama-comedies into the Rom Com rules, I'm not going to here.  The non-linear nature, as well as the fact that it focuses more on the break-up (and erasing of) the relation than how they ended up together (although, in a way, it is with the brief framing story being exactly that.)  However, the point remains - it is a romantic drama-comedy like many of these films.


4a.  Full of energy - Certainly.

4b.  Full of contradictions.
i.  Fun/Serious - Yes.
ii.  Sexual/Asexual - Mostly sexual.  To the point that Joel accuses her of using sex (or dangling the possibility of sex) with people as a way of getting them to like her.
iii.  Romantic/Not - Seems to be (unless Joel is right) but says she soon gets bored.
iv.  Honest & Open/Hiding a Secret - No real secrets, although does do a memory erase.  Pretty open otherwise.
v.  Smart/ditzy - Mostly smart.  The ditzy's left to Mary.

4c.  Carefree - Petty criminal (breaking into people's houses and drinking their wine).  Sexually free.  Her friend calls her impulsive, claiming that's more why she had him erased.

4d.  Quirky - She says "I apply my personality in a paste" referring to her changing her colour.

4e.  Unusual Things
i.  Clothing – Certainly.
ii.  Transport - Wrecked his car.
iii.  House – Just an apartment.
iv.  Job – Book Slave at Barnes & Noble, at least half MPDG job.
v.  Objects – Ugly dolls.
vi.  Mix-Tape - No mixed tape.  Actually, he's the one with a sketch book.



5a.  Tiny - Not petite but short.

5b.  Cute features - To a degree.  Not short hair, but not conservative hair.

5c.  Girlish - Yes.

5d.  Clothing - Not really flowing pixie clothes (although Joel's version of her wants to keep the 60's dress).  Usually multiple layers because of the weather.  But still unconventional.


6a.  Dream Girl - Not the girl he'd dream of but the girl he needed to make himself less repressed.  He considered going back to Naomi because she was "nice" and liked him which is clearly a low bar.

6b.  Dream-like - Much of the film occurs within Joel's head, so pretty much definitionally.


7a.  Female - Yes.

7b.  Girlish - Yes.


She talks to him and tries to get him to break into a house with her, but he leaves.  Then goes to find her.  It's only with the second first meeting that she forces herself into his life.  Both their lives change and it causes friction.


She erases him, so she's got a secret from even herself.  She had self-esteem issues as a child which may have made her how she is, but that's not too much of a secret.


They end up deciding - despite the learning that they'd had a failed relationship previously and hearing the hurtful things that they at their worst moments said about each other - to give a relationship a go.  Bittersweet ending.  There is no sequel.

Let's also mention that Kirsten Dunst appears as a secondary character in this film in a bubble ditzy role the year before she appears in Elizabethtown.


Rules followed by this film:  1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 10.
Rules partially followed by this film: 5, 8, 9.

Clementine certainly works as a manic pixie dream girl in this non-traditional science fiction (in a magic realism sort of way) although she claims to be more (and earned Kate a Best Actress Oscar nomination) she really isn't any more than a way for the main character to change his own life.  While in the reality of the world beyond the story we see, she's bound to be more - but isn't that the case in all films - this is what we see.

~ DUG.

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