Jeff's Reviews

Thoughts on every movie I've ever seen.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Starring Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Madison Eginton, Jackie Sawiris


Vintage Stanley. Photographic symmetry, grainy film, classical music over almost every scene, strange nightmarish environments, rampant nudity, Steadi-Cam, plain titles. We also get to see a touch of Kubrick’s Lolita-ish, Polanski-ish obsession with little girls with Sobieski, an almost prepubescent girl, dancing around in her undies (what does she whisper to Cruise in the costume store?).

I can see how I might be flattered as an actor to work in a Kubrick film, since all his films are true works of art. But in a way, I can see how an actor might prefer not to work in a Kubrick film. The performances he demands are dehumanizing, flat, and unlikeable. First he takes away their natural personalities, voices, and gestures. Then he centers them with an objective camera and strips their environments of any warmth. What’s more, in the scariest part of this movie, he throws masks on everybody to hide their expressions and reactions and makes them all walk to the same beat. We’re left with robots. A successful formula (I was scared shitless), but unappealing to most actors. They typically avoid those kinds of roles since they don’t appeal to fans or the Academy.

Cruise was pretty good. Must be nice to be a doctor. $500 for cabs in one night is not bad. Neat seeing him with a hooker. I’ve never really seen how someone might really react with a prostitute. Not that I’m gay, but we should have seen Cruise naked. Why go this far without going all the way? I thought, if anyone, Stanley would have been the one to push the envelope and push his pants down. Kidman was also good. Obviously at Kubrick’s request, their speech is slow, deliberate, monotonous, haunting, dehumanizing, and mechanical. A lot like HAL in 2001. Pollack was particularly good, perhaps because he was the most human of all the characters. Field looked a lot like Robert Patrick.

A slow-moving story, again a Kubrick trait (2001 was the same way). Too many characters and situations come and go. Not too much character development, and too many plot points are left unresolved for my taste. I certainly didn’t expect it to end when it did. I felt like I hit a brick wall when Stan slapped the credits onto the screen and started the classical music. Granted I wasn’t going too fast to begin with, but a brick wall is a brick wall. Seems to be a Kubrick trademark to leave plot points and the political messages that come from them up to the viewer’s subjective interpretation, but this might have been his most extreme case.

But there’s no question that the uncomfortable and confusing intensity of some of the scenes, with their limited dialogue and editing, is vintage Kubrick and almost off-putting. Critic Bilge Ebiri examines how this intensity becomes overwhelming when viewed in the theater:

For me, Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, for all its grainy, dreamy beauty, is an example of a film that works beautifully at home but loses something in the movie theater. Not because of catty viewer responses—at least, not anymore, now that the repertory audience for a film like that is self-selecting (it’s become a Christmas staple in New York’s rep houses)—but because the film itself is so lonely, so intimate, and so weird that the window it opens onto this strange, insulated world feels like it shouldn’t be too big. We’re peeping, not plunging. Scale makes it all a little ridiculous.

So what is the message of the film? I’m still thinking about it. Maybe it’s that women are dehumanized, heartless bitches. Fuck as many as you can before you die. Ya, there were a couple of nice women (the smiling hooker and the orgy girl who tries to save), but Stanley kills them off rather conveniently (the hooker contracts HIV and the orgy girl OD’s). And the most important one, his wife, hurts him and uses him.

What was cut from Kubrick’s original film? I guess we’ll never know. You could kinda tell when Cruise and Kidman were messing around in the beginning that something was changed. The music abruptly stopped and the picture changed, almost like a record scratching. And the digital orgy was a obviously altered.

Glad I finally got to see it after all this waiting. Makes you think, like all Kubrick films do. A lot of interesting moments. The whole jealousy thing touched home a bit, like Chasing Amy. Everyone has been in a similar situation.

All of Kubrick’s movies are so dehumanizing and sterile. I wonder what his relationships in real life are like. How did he get married? Thanks for all the great films, Stanley. We’ll miss you.

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