EYES WIDE SHUT (1999) 

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Tom Cruise
Nicole Kidman
Sydney Pollack
Rade Serbedzija
Todd Field
Vinessa Shaw
Alan Cumming
Marie Richardson
Leelee Sobieski

Stanley Kubrick



Time: 159 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Drama/Thriller

There are so many problems with this film I don't know where to begin. The sad thing is, I really enjoyed the first hour. It's just the whole second half of the film that truly sucked. I went into this film with somewhat high expectations even though I'm not a huge fan of either Stanley Kubrick or Tom Cruise. I do love Nicole Kidman, so I was hoping she would balance it out for me. Unfortunately, she's in it less than one would think, certainly not enough screen time to justify being on set for a year and that's part of the problem. EYES WIDE SHUT has been billed as this psychosexual drama about a married couple delving into their deepest fantasies and the trauma that follows. The concept may be interesting, the finished project not so much. I've lived a fairly straightlaced life and I was totally bored by Cruise's sexual misadventures. His evening was more weird than shocking and in fact nothing we haven't seen done better many times before. This film's sexual content may have been racy when the book was written in the 1920's or even 20 years ago when Kubrick optioned it, but after all we've seen in the 90s this reads like a sexy 50s movie.

The film opens with Cruise and Kidman as Dr. William and Alice Harford going to the Christmas party hosted by a wealthy patient of Bill's. They each end up flirting with strangers, Alice with an older Hungarian gentleman, Bill with two beautiful models. Bill's potential liaison is cut short by a medical emergency upstairs. A "special guest" of his host Victor Ziegler (Sydney Pollack), is having a serious reaction to the drugs she shot up and Bill is called in to make sure she doesn't OD. Alice stops her flirtation of her own volition. When they get home they make love, which turns out to be disappointing since the footage is the same as the racy trailer released several months ago. Nothing new. Except you actually get to see Kidman naked. Cruise fans prepare to be disappointed. You never get to see anything remotely provocative when it comes to Cruise. He has a wholesome image to protect.

"May I ask why a beautiful woman who could have any man in this room wants to be married?"

Which translates to a later scene where the two of them get stoned. Kidman is seen taking a long drag on the joint. It is only inferred that Cruise takes a hit. You never see him take a toke. I had to wonder who's idea that was. What does it matter? It's just a character after all, but apparently it makes a difference to somebody. They begin to make love again, but Alice stops the proceedings to talk. She starts a conversation that made all of the men in the audience laugh. It was a no-win situation from the get-go. She's trying to pick a fight and he's not playing along. He tells her he's uninterested in being with other women because he's in love with her and doesn't get jealous because he's knows she would never cheat on him. She tells him if he only knew what went on in the minds of most women he'd be shocked. In fact, she has a story she knows will rock his world.

She proceeds to tell him how she would have thrown away their entire life together for one night with a man who merely glanced at her while they were on vacation. The connection was so immediate and overpowering, she couldn't sleep and was both distraught and relieved when she discovered he was gone. Bill is stunned beyond his wildest imagination (it didn't seem so bad to me) and doesn't know what to say. If I were him I'd be more concerned about why she told me than about what it was she said. She was obviously trying to hurt him and did a pretty good job. Why?. He, of course, fixated on the part all men would – his wife wanted to sleep with another man. Hello...that's human nature. Just because we're women doesn't mean we don't fantasize about other men. We just don't make it a reality as often.

This revelation sends Bill on a downward spiral of sexual discovery. He wants to hurt her back and wanders the streets of New York looking for a way to do just that. He goes home with a young prostitute, but is unable to sleep with her due to his guilt. He ends up getting information about a super secret party from an old friend of his and decides to sneak in. He encounters some pretty weird other characters along the way, but again it's nothing as shocking as I believe Mr. Kubrick wanted it to be. When he finally does show up at the orgy, they're in the middle of performing a strange opening ceremony. Everyone is masked and cloaked. One of the masked naked women leads him away from the ceremony and warns him to leave immediately. He doesn't belong and trespassing is not treated lightly. He chooses to ignore her warning and wanders from room to room, watching people performing various sex acts, mainly straight sex in unusual positions. I've seen weirder stuff on the Playboy channel. He, of course, is discovered and after a close call is allowed to leave unharmed. It's all very scary...not.

The rest of the film has him trying to figure out what "really" happened and to keep his wife from finding out. Unfortunately, nothing ever happens to make him fear for his life, though they try like hell to make you think that. He finally does discover the truth and by that time you just don't care. It's just a group of people who like to have sex while concealed with masks. How creepy and unusual. Whatever. He is so devestated by his evening on the street, that he can't keep the secret from his wife. He reveals everything (?) and she is very upset by his tale. Huh? He doesn't do anything. The orgy was like a high class strip club as far as he was concerned. He never had sex or really touched any other woman the entire time. All I can see she could hold against him was the prostitute thing and he didn't sleep with her either. How can you call this a sexual adventure if you don't actually do anything. Watching doesn't count. I can watch mountain climbing on TV that doesn't mean I went on an adventure to the Alps. Now if he had slept with every woman he met, that would be a problem. Just because he thought about it, doesn't mean jack to me.

This film is such a colossal disappointment and waste of time it's not to be believed. I thought Kubrick was better than this. Nothing about this film is original except for the score which begins to seriously grate on the nerves about halfway through. Cruise and Kidman were good, but I have to say I was fairly disconcerted by the fact that she was practically naked in most of her scenes. She has a great body, but I don't think we needed to see it as much as we did. Cruise really tried to play a guy on the edge, it's just too bad the edge was so dull. I can't really recommend this movie. If you still want to see it watch the first hour and then leave. You'll really like it if you do.

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