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Eyes Wide Shut

A movie directed, produced and co-written by Stanley Kubrick

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Does The Title of This Movie Make Sense to Anyone?

  • Feb 24, 2005
  • by
Pros: Nicole Kidman.

Cons: Script lacked cohesion; there was no real story here.

The Bottom Line: It turned out instead to be a bit of a bore, with a few titillating scenes thrown in for good measure.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.

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 Bill’s 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 jealous—of 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 try’s 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…

Final Thoughts

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 I’m 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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More Eyes Wide Shut reviews
review by . August 05, 2009
Tom Cruise stars as  Bill a man in a mundane marriage with an equally bored wife Alice (Nicole Kidman).  After a strange party involving a near fatal overdose and seduction, the couple return home where Alice tells Bill a tale about a time that she would have left him for one night just to spend time with an naval officer who caught her fancy.  Bill shocked by her admission is left in a daze that follow a series of events that will test their relationship as temptation, sexual situations …
review by . April 27, 2001
posted in Movie Hype
This clever but ultimately unsatisfying erotic psychodrama has a couple of high points but for me fell flat most of the way. It is clearly intended to seem unreal, but also seems contrived in too many places. The best parts for me are scenes where Kubrick plays on the ambiguities of jealousy in both male and female flavors. He touches on very uncomfortable realities for both men and women. Yet he lets go of the tension just when he needs it most.In the pivotal early scene, the wife confesses an …
review by . May 15, 2000
Pros: Beautiful scenery     Cons: Way too long, plot was very thin, bad acting     What a let down this film was. After all of the hype and then Kubrick dying. I had high expectations about this film but was really dissapointed by it in many ways.      The plot didn't make any sense. It was all cloak and daggers and fog that went no where. It was two steps away from being laughable. Several times the audience tittered nervously throughout …
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Vincent Martin ()
Ranked #187
I am an IT Professional and have worked in the industry for over 20 years. I may be a computer geek, but I also like reading, writing, cooking, music, current events and regretfully, politics.
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About this movie


Eyes Wide Shut (1999) is a psychological drama with many elements of an erotic thriller considered by some a cult film directed, produced and co-written by Stanley Kubrick, based on the novella Traumnovelle (Dream Story) by Arthur Schnitzler. It was Kubrick's last film before his death. The story, set in and around New York City, follows the surreal, sexually charged adventures of Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise), who is shocked after his wife, Alice (Nicole Kidman), reveals she contemplated an affair a year earlier. This leads him on a night-long, eventful sexual adventure, which climaxes with him infiltrating a masked orgy.

The film appeared on 16 July 1999 to generally positive critical reaction.

The film begins in the apartment of a wealthy, married couple, Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) and Alice Harford (Nicole Kidman), who are preparing for a Christmas party at the home of Victor Ziegler (Sydney Pollack), a friend and patient of Bill's. During the party, a Hungarian man (Sky du Mont) tries to seduce Alice, while two younger models try to seduce Bill. Alice and Bill both resist temptations. During the party, Bill is summoned by Ziegler to his bathroom where he finds a naked woman, Mandy (Julienne Davis), over-dosed from a speedball. Bill helps her regain consciousness and promises Victor he will not speak of the event. Bill also meets an old friend, Nick Nightingale (Todd Field), a former fellow student who dropped out of medical school and is now a pianist at the...
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