Eyes Wide Shut

Eyes Wide Shut has such a fascinating story surrounding it that books could be written on the movie and production. It is the last movie of Stanley Kubrick, who died shortly after its completion. Since it is Kubrick's final movie, critics will take a much sharper look at it. Every movie that Kubrick has made over the years has been lauded with critical acclaim. A Clockwork Orange, Dr. Strangelove, 2001, the list goes on and on. Kubrick was a perfectionist, known for his total control over every aspect of a film, from its lighting in every scene to control over when and what the trailers showed. His perfectionism tied up the schedules of two A-list Hollywood celebrities, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, while the film was completed. Pretty much no one knew what the movie was about before it came out.

Eyes is based on Traumnovelle, an old novel by Arthur Schnitzler. It deals with jealousy and sexual obsession in Vienna. Kubrick has updated the story to present day New York, with Cruise and Kidman play Dr. William and Alice Harford, the two principals. Cruise becomes distraught when he learns that his wife had a fantasy about a man that she had seen, and as he wanders the street late at night, grapples with his desire for revenge by sleeping with another woman. As everyone knows by now, there is a big orgy. Harford hears about it, and decides to attend. The movie follows Harford as he agonizes over both what his wife had told him and his feelings of jealousy and revenge. This whole issue takes on a deeper meaning, since, in real life Cruise and Kidman are married. Watching them feels almost voyeuristic. You want to sit down and ask them if this has ever applied to them, and if so, how they have dealt with it. A tabloid has been sued by them after claiming they had to hire a sex therapist to make their love scenes look real.

Technically, like all other Kubrick movies, Eyes Wide Shut is a masterpiece. Each set is opulent, full of art and decoration, showing the world of the filthy rich in New York. The lights in many of the rooms seem to give the entire movie a surreal feeling, as if you are watching a dream. The acting is also superb. Kidman, who deserves more recognition than she usually gets, does a marvelous job as Alice Harford. Sydney Pollack also does well. Of course, the orgy and the nudity are the most controversial aspects of the film. Kubrick has been criticized over his seeming double standard in freely showing female nudity, but almost no male nudity. The orgy has scenes containing people digitized in to cover up nudity and sex that gave the film an initial NC-17 rating. Critics across the US have vehemently denounced this, and have called for various changes including an "A" rating (adult, but not pornographic). Roger Ebert raised a very valid question. Why make it R? Now, parents can bring their kids in to watch a movie that is clearly adult in nature. Why not be brave and stick with the NC-17?

Even the the movie clocks in at almost 3 hours, it does not get boring. The pace is moderately slow, but that fits well with watching William Harford slowly struggle with his inner demons. Not only is Harford on the verge of being corrupted, but many of the people he comes in contact with are tempted and succumb, and Kubrick shows the results of their indulgences. Many people claim that Kubrick has always been far ahead of his time. Every time he releases a new movie, it has lots of critical acclaim, but is also not fully understood until some amount of time passes, and the rest of the world catches up with him. Is Eyes Wide Shut the same way? I have no idea. The film does raise a lot of issues, many of them more related to the production of the film than the film itself. If you are the type of person who loves movies like Big Daddy and Austin Powers, you should probably stay away from this movie. But if you want a movie that will make you think, you will probably want to see this.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad

2 hours, 45 minutes, Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, language, and drug use.

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