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Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

  Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Written by: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur Schnitzler
Starring: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman
Links: Eyes Wide Shut on the IMDb, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD, Buy the Soundtrack, Buy the Book
Genre: Suspense/Horror/Thriller

This movie gets: 7.00 (1 rating) Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

Eyes Wide Shut (1999) is also mentioned in mino's review of The Last Samurai (2003) and pearly's review of The Scree (2004).

"Cruisey" - a review by mino

There are a lot of ways that a movie can have a lot of ‘baggage’, as it were. One of them is to be the last film of one of the all-time great directors; and surely being the last collaboration between a couple who were definite Hollywood royalty before their break-up is another. The great Stanley Kubrick's hand being involved is a sure-fire way to put a movie under serious scrutiny from film buffs; and having Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman play a couple straining to stay married, as their own marriage began to disintegrate, is just as effective at provoking the interest of the naturally curious.

Well, given that Eyes Wide Shut has both of these things — and add in the whole ‘extensive nudity and sex scenes’ thing as well — and you've got a genuine blockbuster on your hands: not, necessarily, something that happened often during Kubrick's illustrious career.

So, the question is: strip away the hype that has nothing to do with the film itself (and there was plenty, you'll recall), and does Eyes Wide Shut actually have anything there? Or is it all just ready-made publicity, without anything to back it up?

Well, Eyes Wide Shut is, to put not too fine a point on it, a funny old film. It's the story of a massively successful doctor who manages to temporarily escape some domestic troubles with a trip to a strange masked ball, if you like, though the word ‘ball’ could perhaps slightly more accurately be replaced with, say, ‘gang-bang’. Things go a bit weird, though (well… weirder), and before you know it the good doctor is caught up in something he can't understand, and is almost certainly better off not being involved in.

Look: I liked Eyes Wide Shut, but I'm sure a lot of people wouldn't, and for a lot of different reasons. There's a lot of stuff in there for people to dislike, though not everyone will care about each one: I suspect there are enough, though, that a lot of people will be turned off.

Let's start with the obvious: the nudity and sex. While I'm sure there are those who find it offensive, that's not the problem: the problem is that no matter how big a fan of naked folk you are, it's hard not to shrug the feeling that it's all a little bit gratuitous. I've got nothing against nude folk at all, believe me, but cramming a movie full of nudie ladies seems almost like a cop-out from a director like Kubrick, a cheap attempt at upping the interest levels whenever things get a bit slow. It's not so much the famous orgy scene that I'm talking about here, either; rather the frequent shots of Kidman herself gratuitously tits-out (or whatever) which, while not exactly displeasing in a baser sense, actually get irritating with their frequency.

Of course, the presence of Tom Cruise is another potential problem if, like me, you're not a fan of his work. However, it has to be said his squinty puzzled look is quite well suited to the role here and once things start to go all pear-shaped for the Doc, his performance is actually quite strong, making this one of his better roles.

In fact, if anything, Kidman is the weak link here: I think some people find her a little annoying, and her performance here will do nothing to mollify those folk. Her character spends half of the movie either stoned or drunk, and her performance fluctuates between uncanny and ridiculously over-the-top. She spends half the movie talking at about ten words a minute, and after a while you start wishing Stanley had been a bit more generous with the age-old ‘wind it up’ gesture behind the camera.

There are two other possible problems with Eyes Wide Shut, and more significant ones, too: firstly, that the movie is quite looong, and secondly that given its length, not much actually happens. The movie is certainly leisurely, and it's easy to see why the pace would frustrate people.

In fact, I think that leads, in turn, to the real problem with Eyes Wide Shut. It's a thriller, but is probably too slow for a lot of people who like thrillers. It's got sex scenes, but isn't sexy enough for people who want titillation; conversely, it's a think-piece about relatonships, but the thriller elements would probably just annoy the folk who want such a movie. It stars Tom Cruise, but isn't really the sort of movie that I suspect Tom Cruise fans would like; Tom and Nicole play husband and wife, but their relationship is so sterile that New Idea readers aren't likely to get what they want either.

That said, I really did enjoy the movie. I could ignore Cruise's presence, and somehow the mix of thriller and relationship saga was just right for me. If you can kind of come at Eyes Wide Shut with the right mindset — it's slow-burning suspense with a bit of love-story-gone-sour in for good measure — you may well enjoy it. Like Jackie Brown (1997), I found the leisurely pace to be a plus, not a minus, allowing you to kind of ‘soak in’ the atmosphere — and atmosphere is one thing Kubrick can do.

So will you like this movie? I don't know. I did, but with a movie like this, no two people will have the same reaction. See it, but be warned: not only may you not like it, but the haunting piano refrain stands a very real risk of driving you stark raving bonkers. I've seen it twice, and both times I was walking around going ‘doong doong doong-doong doong doong’ for about three days. Honestly, it's worse than My Sharona.

mino gives this movie 7 out of 10.
Review created on Thu 8 Apr 2004

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Reader comments

  1. i like it because ive seen it twice and i wouldlike it longer because it takes like 159 minutes at the moment.


    Rating given: 10

    A comment from william ashton on Thu 05 Aug 2004 01:03 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 10.00 (1 rating)

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