Review: Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

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My eyes are never wide shut, I don’t even know if that’s possible, I have trouble enough keeping them wide open.

Screenplay By: Stanley Kubrick & Frederic Raphael
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick

In the modern age society is deluged with images of sex and pornography. I am not about to lie to anyone, I partake in porn, and most people who say they don’t, actually do and are simply ashamed to admit it. All of this exposure to hard porn in our society has created a numbness to sexuality, visual images in Eyes Wide Shut that used to be shocking are now tame as a kitten. This did not stop detractors of Eyes Wide Shut and our still far too sheltered rule makers from labeling Eyes Wide Shut as pornography, because even the act of watching someone having sex is dirty and should not happen. One day the shackles of sexual repression that dominate our society will be thrown off, but that is another topic for another time and I have once again found myself sidetracked.

The point I was trying to make is that the provocative nature of Eyes Wide Shut isn’t found in the visual images of sex or nudity, but it is in the implications of what that sex means. Is meaningless sex okay when it is with someone who you don’t value as a person? Is it okay to reduce people to objects for your own gratification? People do that the world over every day, but they do it matter of fact, I know I do, never bothering to look at the difference between meaningless and meaningful sex. I don’t know how to ration this conundrum out in my mind because it is a tough nut to crack. Most people in our society who are not sexually repressed love sex and the idea of sex. But, as much as we love sex not everyone has consistent values that we place on it. Should there be consistent values, or is meaningless sex just fun? These are just a few of the sex related questions Eyes Wide Shut seeks to ask.

The deepest of crimson reds can be seen in the decoration of Eyes Wide Shut, it is a lush looking picture. The reds and crimsons push the eroticism factor while also putting across a warm and inviting feeling. Even if you don’t want to be a part of the proceedings, the reds warm you up to what is going on and try to get you to come on down. I am an unabashed fan of Stanley Kubrick, and Eyes Wide Shut features many of the directorial choices that he is well known for. Long shots to echo whatever message he wants to get across, the film working hand in hand with the score to transport the viewer into a sort of dream world. The emphasis on body movement and positioning over dialogue and the spoken word. Few directors have the knack that Kubrick does for getting right to the point while making sure a million questions float around in your head as a result of that point.

Even though I mentioned it earlier, the music in Eyes Wide Shut deserves more attention. It helps to create the mood and atmosphere for the film and it gives off the vibe of a suspense thriller. More than that, it is quiet and muted when it needs to be, but it never crosses the line into monotonous or overbearing. Especially interesting is that the music fluctuates from a very natural tone to a highly artificial one in accordance with when the viewer will feel they are in a safe place or when they think they are in danger.

I have said it before, but I have never been a member of the Tom Cruise hate machine and I never will be. He has been an excellent actor throughout his career, always taking on roles, such as this one, that other stars would never dream of taking. In Eyes Wide Shut he is set up to be the protagonist, but very early on you realize that is not the case. Dr. Bill is the rubber ball being bounced to and fro and not always liking where he is going but having no choice in the matter. Like usual Cruise is supremely deft at pulling off the acting necessary to create such a rudderless man. Unfortunately, also like usual Nicole Kidman is the weak link acting wise. She is close to laughably bad in her attempts to appear stoned and later she brings a decided lack of interest to her scenes, making it hard to connect to her role or to the ending. There is also the issue of the computer blurring of the orgy scene, and while the added computer people aren’t jaw droppingly bad, they aren’t necessary and are a tacked on negative.

Eyes Wide Shut is a lot like Stanley Kubrick’s other polarizing work, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Some people love it and think it is a deep masterwork of cinema while others find it boring, pretentious and a film about nothing. I am in category A, and consider Eyes Wide Shut to be a worthy final entry in the career of one of the greatest directors the film business has ever seen. Eyes Wide Shut has a lot to say and it says it in beautiful fashion, but more than anything it has a lot of questions to ask, are you willing to listen or will you remain one of the repressed?

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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6 responses to “Review: Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

  1. I always thought the movie had a complex psychological undertone. It’s nice to know you thought so to. I’d have a hard time arguing against your claims regarding the two leads. I’ve never been impressed with Kidman. Tom Cruise…he’s the quintessential ‘Bale like actor’: he may be weird and a jerk sometimes, but he can act, period.

  2. well bill I’m definitely in category B, I could not finish this film, tried it drunk then tried it sober and hungover the following day, found the entire thing unutterably insufferably boring.
    Phaze

  3. Edgar – Astute observations as usual. I’ve softened on Kidman in recent times, she has managed to impress me in certain roles, like The Others.

    Phaze – I’m sorry you feel that way, but you’re certainly entitled to your opinion

    Rob – Disagree with Phaze all you want, but leave name calling and labeling out of it, thank you very much.

  4. phaze is uncultured. this is an epic film about a real history Eyes Wide Shut is a metaphor for what is happening to us…

  5. There’s a lot of time taken with this film, and Kubrick delivers with an almost terrifying atmosphere that works so well because you almost feel as if you are in a dream. Not his best work, but still a reminder that he still did have the brilliancy. Good review, check out mine when you can!

  6. The dream comment is an interesting one. More and more I have read/heard people posit that the events are mainly a dream inside of Cruise’s head. That will certainly give me something to think about next time I watch this one.

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