April 29, 2009

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Grade: 89/100

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Stars: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack

What it's about. Set in New York City. Hunky medical doctor Bill (Tom Cruise) is married to hottie blonde Alice (Nicole Kidman). They have a post-toddler daughter, Helena (Madison Eginton). Bill and Alice attend a swank party thrown by wealthy Victor (Sydney Pollack). There, Bill and Alice are each tempted to cheat on each other. Alice dances with shameless lothario Sky Dumont, while Bill receives an invitation to a two-on-one with Gayle (Louise J. Taylor) and Nuala (Stewart Thorndike).

Later, Bill and Alice discuss their near infidelities. Alice reveals she had lusted after some Naval officer she saw in hotel months earlier. This annoys Bill so much that he apparently decides to cheat on her to get revenge, despite a natural reluctance to do so.

His late night journey includes a meeting with an attractive patient's daughter who is infatuated with him (Marie Richardson), a rendezvous with a charming prostitute (Vinessa Shaw), and an encounter with the nymphomaniac daughter (LeeLee Sobieski) of a costume shop owner.

Things really get moving, however, when Bill learns about an elaborate invitation-only costume ball that is a front for wealthy clients to engage in sex with gorgeous prostitutes. Bill makes the mistake of attending the costume ball, where he gets into some trouble.

The next day, he decides to investigate, such as what happened to his old buddy Nick (Todd Field) and who offed the hottie druggie prostitute (Julienne Davis). The investigation continues until it is stopped by Victor, who is aware of Bill's misadventures.

How others will see it. Eyes Wide Shut quickly developed a strong following, mostly from admirers of legendary director Stanley Kubrick. The film is less popular, however, than several of the Kubrick's later movies, especially A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket, and The Shining. None of these are as good as Eyes Wide Shut, which in turn is less great than Kubrick's two best films, Dr. Strangelove and Barry Lyndon.

Critics were generally pleased, although the film was completely ignored by the Academy Awards. Eyes Wide Shut was highly anticipated by the public, due to its two popular leads (Cruise and Kidman, then married) and as the final film of reclusive director Kubrick, who died four days after allegedly turning the final cut over to the studio. The film opened well at the box office but quickly nosedived. It may yet be unprofitable, although much less so than Barry Lyndon.

How I felt about it. Let me begin with some observations. Bill and Alice never actually cheat on each other, although this has less to do with their willpower than the imposition of external events. For example, Bill is denied the immeasurable pleasures of Nuala by an urgent call from Victor. Bill is about to steal second base with Shaw when he gets a phone call (cold shower) from his wife. And so on.

Alice liberally uses a certain four letter word that begins with 'f'. Bill never uses this word. But Bill has every intention of doing what the word implies, even though his lust always ends up fighting a losing battle with his better judgment.

Eyes Wide Shut has more hot-looking women with speaking lines than any other Kubrick film. Normally, such a preponderance of eye candy suggests that the director is desperate. (If there is a beautiful woman in 2001: A Space Odyssey, I must have missed it).

But not in this case. The hotties that tempt Bill aren't offering him sex or comfort. They want more, to take him away from Alice. Bill seems to know this, which is why he is unable to commit adultery. Bill and Alice are bound together by their young daughter, Helena.