Jim Carrey is a talented comedian, which is not the same thing as being a talented comic actor. He's that, too, by the way. But the rap on Carrey always has been that he doesn't seem to be much of an actor in anything other than comedy.
Whether that's by choice, chance or circumstance, it does seem to be true. Yeah, I know, he played an alcoholic in the 1992 made-for-TV movie "Doing Time on Maple Drive." And amid all the movies that made him famous — from "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" to "Liar Liar" to "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and so on — he has starred in some serious-types roles such as "The Truman Show," "Man in the Moon" and "The Majestic."
To me, though, the film that shows Carrey at his serious best will play at 7 p.m. Wednesday at The Bing Crosby Theater. That's when the Spokane International Film Festival, as the final event of its Professor's Series, will present Michel Gondry's 2004 film "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." Festival director Pete Porter will serve as presenter.
In the film, which is adapted from a Charlie Kaufman screenplay, Carrey stars as a guy who does what most us of do at one point or another: He falls in love. But Carrey's Joel, an inherently shy guy, has the fortune/misfortune to fall in love with the vivacious Clementine (Kate Winslet). And so he doesn't just fall in love; he plummets. And when things don't work out, he is devastated. Worse, when he discovers that Clementine has undergone a procedure to wash all memory of him out of her mind, he decides to do the same thing.
Ah, if only the loss of love were only that easy to weather.
Screenwriter Kaufman writes the kind of mind-bending stories that appeal to all of us who see reality as something just slightly off. (Remember "Adaptation"? How about "Synecdoche, New York"?) And Gondry ("The Science of Sleep") has just the right sensibility to, similar to Spike Jonze, bring out the best in Kaufman's work.
But let's not forget Carrey, who does his best in "Eternal Sunshine" to play a regular guy. It may be his greatest acting job ever. And for a guy most known for making us laugh in the goofiest way possible, that's saying something.