I remember when the whispers began about Eyes Wide Shut, a supposedly incredibly erotic and sensual dramatic film staring the husband and wife team of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Rumors were ripe that despite being married, there was no chemistry between the two, that they had to be coached through the scenes of the movie that called for intimacy, and some modicum of passionate discourse between them.
Not too long after the move hit the box office, the power couple did split citing career and scheduling conflicts as the reason. Rumors aside, Eyes Wide Shut in which the two did seem to have little attraction for each other, an in which Kidman spent an inordinate amount of time sans clothing. But that was not enough to make the movie a must see. Nor could the other plethora of nude scenes, because Eyes Wide Shut is a movie that made little sense to me. It was an erotic thriller, but to what end? Where was the story we could all relate to? The thread of familiarity that might of allowed me to feel anything for the characters was missing; indeed I watch the movie cold and detached unable to muster the slightest bit of warmth for a film that told no tangible tale.
Directed by the late Stanly Kubrick, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Frederic Raphael, Eyes Wide Shut is based on the 1926 novella entitled Traumnovelle by Arthur Schnitzler.
From the opening frame we are treated to a taste of what this sexually charged, overly long (2:45) movie has in store for us as Nicole Kidman (Dead Calm, To Die For, The Hours) portraying Alice Harford disrobes revealing a completely bare posterior; just one of many scenes in which Ms. Kidman appears unabashedly nude. She and her husband, Dr. William Harford (Bill), portrayed by Tom Cruise (Born of The Fourth of July, A Few Good Men, Magnolia) are dressing to the nines in preparation to attend an annual Christmas Party thrown at the New York mansion of one of Bills wealthy patients Victor Ziegler portrayed by Sydney Pollack (Tootsie, A Civil Action, The Majestic).
At the party, Alice and Bill separate when she excuses herself to go to the ladies room. Bill soon wanders off, and Alice, now alone and tipsy makes small, flirtatious talk with an innocuous Hungarian whose sole purpose is taste her wares. Meanwhile, Bill is strutting around with two beautiful models, one on each arm for effect, who want to show him "where the rainbow ends." However, just as Bill is about to see never ending colors, a crisis occurs: Ziegler's hooker portrayed by Julienne Davis has OD'd on a speedball, and Dr. Bill is needed to revive her. After he does so, he rejoins Alice, who has now successfully fended off the persistent advanced of her lecherous Hungarian suitor. Once home, Alice stands in front of a mirror as Bill kisses and paws her. She should be enjoying the attention, but instead there is an unmistakable, unexplainable detachment in her expression.
The next evening over a shared marijuana joint, as the two prepare to make love, an argument erupts. Alice is jealousof those models, of the attractive women Bill meets in his practice, of the breast he gets to fondle that are not hers. And she is peeved because Bill is certain in his belief that she would never commit adultery; this fills her with resentment. So she relates to Bill the fantasy she once had of throwing herself at a Naval Officer, a man she never met, only glimpsed while they were on vacation years before. But a single glimpse was enough for her to fall deep in lust with the man, wiling to toss all aside for a chance to spend one night with him. Alice relates to Bill that at that moment when she first spied the Naval Officer and lust pervaded her heart, that he, Bill, was never dearer to her, that his love for her was at once, precise and sad. Huh?
But before Bill can respond or retaliate, he receives a phone call that a patient had died and he is needed by the family. And as Bill rides in a taxi (everyone takes a taxi in New York) profane mental pictures of his wife copulating with another man haunt his thoughts urging him on into what will turn out to be a debauchery filled night, as Bill flirts with prostitution, and other more unseemly sex practices. This all precipitated by an excursion into Manhattan's nightlife, which culminates in a visit to a gothic estate outside of the city where Bill finds himself observing a ritualistic Pagan ceremony which ends in an orgy. He is not supposed to be there, to be observing and he is soon unmasked before the gathered circle. Cryptic threats are made on Bill's life and that of his family, and Bill spends the next two days afraid of his own shadow, but he nonetheless trys to find out who the people were at the mansion.
Meanwhile, a naked Alice continues to appear to him in a series daydreams egging Bill on the cheat on his wife any way he can. Its hard to believe that any man would take a simple fantasy and turn his jealousy into such a melancholy, self-serving weapon
As the frames closed the movie, and the credits rolled, I remember thinking: what was that? Was Eyes Wide Shut too deep for me to understand, or too simpleminded a story to make sense to a rational thinking person? In the end there was little coherence to hold the film together enough to form a plausible story. What was Bill searching for on the street of New York? Was he so willing to punish his wife for her thoughts that he would jeopardize all just to expunge the images of Alice with this pretend Naval Officer, only to replace them with images of his real infidelities?
Not that the visuals in Eyes Wide Shut were not sublime, a feast for the discerning male eye, but the film was almost too voyeuristic, too much the progeny of male fantasy to be truly enjoyable. Nicole Kidman turned in a fine performance as Alice, though Im not quite sure why she felt a distance from her husband. And Cruise, was well, Cruise, though this was not one of his finest performances. Indeed he seemed to be sleepwalking through some of the more pivotal scenes; calling it in as it were.
Eyes Wide Shut was supposed to be a ground breaking film, a movie that would break new ground in adult-based, mainstream cinema. It turned out instead to be a bit of a bore, with a few titillating scenes thrown in for good measure.
Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age
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