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Eyes Wide Shut Review

By Joe Lozito

The "Eyes" don't have it


I'm a Stanley Kubrick fan. I have been for a long time. However, due to the frequency with which he makes movies, I've only been able to see one Kubrick film in the theater (at the time of its release). When "A Clockwork Orange" was released, I was just being born; I still haven't seen "Barry Lyndon"; I wisely decided against seeing "The Shining" in the theater at nine-years old (later I grew to love it); which left me with "Full Metal Jacket", which I ate up with relish. So, needless to say, I was looking forward to the release of Mr. Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut" with great anticipation.
That being said, it's also only fair to mention that I was not watching the film with too critical an eye. I was just happy to be treated to the latest (and, unfortunately, last) creation from one of the few cinematic masters that we have left. As such, I was willing to make a few concessions. So what if the New York streets were obviously not filmed in New York (where is the corner of Wren and Miller Sts.?)?; so what if there are not one but two hookers with hearts of gold?; and so what if the climactic breakdown of the main character seemed overacted and unmoving? This is a film by Stanley Kubrick, and I wanted to forgive certain indulgences. Unfortunately, I couldn't.

"Eyes Wide Shut" follows the odyssey of Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) after his wife (Mr. Cruise's real-life spouse, Nicole Kidman, in the film's only standout performance) confesses her deep, dark fantasy: that she once glimpsed a man for whom, based purely on animal attraction, she would have left her husband and child. It's not exactly a story any husband wants to come home to, and Ms. Kidman presents her monologue brilliantly. In fact, up until this point, "Eyes Wide Shut" has the potential to be a wonderful exploration of deception and paranoia in marriage.

There is also a voyeuristic pleasure in watching the real life husband and wife team act out their scenes together. But unfortunately, Ms. Kidman's role is far too brief, and Mr. Cruise, though turning in one of his finer performances, doesn't not imbue the character with the emotional depth to make the payoff pay-off. This is not entirely Mr. Cruise's fault. The script is written in such a way that it almost seems a parody at times (the character's constantly repeat each other's questions), and the film is paced deadly slow (particularly a hand-wringing scene between Mr. Cruise and Sidney Pollack's would-be villain).

In the film's centerpiece, an extravagant orgy which is supposed to take place on Long Island, the MPAA has added cloaked CGI figures to get an R rating. Only in America would we need to hide the act of having sex when, in a neighboring theater, children are watching Saddam Hussein pleasuring Satan with a dildo and teenagers masturbating in apple pies. These new CGI figures were so sloppily added that they don't even appear in the reverse angle of the same scene (only when Mr. Cruise is watching a couple have sex does the CGI appear next to him, in the reverse shot of Mr. Cruise's reaction, the CGI is not there). We can at least seek solace in the knowledge that the video release of the film will doubtlessly remove these images. It is said that Mr. Kubrick had agreed to the addition of these characters and they don't detract too much from the film.

Mr. Kubrick was a man who would spend twelve years on a film ("Full Metal Jacket" was released in 1987). He was involved in every aspect of the film's appearance and it was said that he was happy with the final cut of the movie. Mr. Kubrick was also a notorious recluse and the film has the feel of something from decades ago. This may be the view of sex and relationships from someone who has keep himself apart from the world for a long time.

In the end, it is unclear what Mr. Kubrick was attempting to convey with "Eyes Wide Shut". He seems to be comparing Ms. Kidman's fantasy world with Mr. Cruise's real, though harmless, sexual adventures. Of course, Mr. Kubrick himself does not draw any conclusions - and that's fine. In fact, it's to be expected from this director. We are left wondering if Ms. Kidman's character had discovered her husband's would-be infidelities; we don't know if Mr. Cruise's doctor was actually willing to commit adultery or if he attends the orgy purely for some voyeuristic revenge on his wife. In other Kubrick films, it is a pleasure to dissect questions of this kind. If he wanted "Eyes Wide Shut" to prompt this line of questioning as well, his intention, much like the film itself, didn't work.

What did you think?

Movie title Eyes Wide Shut
Release year 1999
MPAA Rating R
Our rating
Summary I'm a Stanley Kubrick fan. I have been for a long time. However, due to the frequency with which he makes movies, I've only been able to see one Kubrick film in the theater (at the time of its release).
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