I've avoided Eyes Wide Shut for years because I didn't care for the two lead actors. I didn't think even Kubrick could get me interested in these two. I've only ever liked Cruise in two roles and Kidman in one. But their performances in this film were flipping fantastic.
I've read that Kubrick, Kidman, and Cruise had a great chemistry together, and although many people found this gifted but rather obsessive, temperamental director a nightmare to work with, Tom and Nicole loved him. Maybe that chemistry was part of what made this movie -- even the slow parts -- so compelling.
I don't know whether I can fairly review this movie, since I don't completely understand it -- I'm not even sure I'm supposed to. As I was watching it, in the wee hours of the morning, I had several different thoughts about this:
- WTF? WTF?? WTF???
- Perhaps if I were more more seasoned film buff, I'd "get" this movie. :-P
- Maybe this is a movie you're supposed to watch stoned. Seriously. If I had a little stash, in the medicine cabinet, at the bottom of a Band-Aid box ...
On a serious note, it might help to let this one germinate for a few days and read a few interpretations and reviews. But before I absorb anyone else's ideas about the film, I want to get down my own raw initial thoughts. Because that's how I ponder and sort out things -- y'know -- by writing about them.
Let the fun begin ...
Bill (Tom Cruise), a compassionate New York City physician, and Alice (Nicole Kidman), an art curator, are a successful couple with a beautiful seven-year-old daughter. As the film opens, they're attending a lavish party, and each of them enjoys a relatively harmless extramarital flirtation.
Later they get stoned and start laughing about their antics at the party. Bill piques Alice's ire with his one-dimensional perspective on men, women, and sex. You know the tired old cliche as well as I do. Women make love because we want love and security. Guys just like to Do It ... as often as possible ... preferably with lots of women. Because ... you know ... dudes are like that. (*Snort*) Alice decides to school her husband on a more nuanced view of gender and sexuality. Good for her! But alas, she goes a bit too far.
Alice shares a private sexual fantasy that she should've kept to herself. (No more cannabis for you, sweetie.) I've never liked Tom Cruise, but the expression on Bill's face as he's listening to her confession is ... just ... wow. Phenomenal. He immediately has to leave to help a patient's family. But this image of his wife's imaginary indiscretion torments him, and we realize he's been irrevocably changed in some way.
This establishes a major theme of the movie -- a strange, surreal, and thought-provoking one. We know there is a clear line between the real and imaginary. Our actions carry moral culpability. Our thoughts, dreams, and fantasies are just that ... they leave us innocent and untouched. Or do they? Maybe when we step through the looking glass, our ideas and dreams are real. Perhaps they matter as much as what we call "reality" because they have the power to shape our identity, our lives, and ultimately, the fate of others.
After leaving his patient's family, Bill wanders the streets of the city and roams the streets of The Village. Let's face it, in that venue you could just stand on any street corner with a movie camera and produce enough material for a surreal movie, right? But I digress. Pretty soon Bill finds himself tumbling down a rabbit hole. And that concludes the spoiler-free part of this review.
According to Wikipedia, this strange, surreal film is based on a 1926 novella by Arthur Schnitzler titled Dream Story. I'd really like to read this, and seriously, how cool is this book cover?
Rambly Thoughts & Questions (Spoilers):
- Eyes Wide Shut is one of only three Kubrick films I've seen, and I was struck by the visual parallels to The Shining. This was reflected in shots of elevators, hallways, and -- of course -- the masquerade party. And by "party," of course, I mean wild, ritualistic orgy with lunatics in creepy masks.
Oddly enough the creepiest part of The Shining, for me, wasn't Jack Torrence's descent into homicidal madness ... that aspect of the film makes me laugh my ass off. (Don't judge me.) It was that fucking masquerade party with the weird dude dressed as a dog ... or was it a bear? I always found that creepy as hell.
- The title of this movie fascinates me. I got into this film having no idea what it was about. For some reason I thought it was a story about a spouse being caught engaging in adultery. So I thought the title "Eyes Wide Shut" might refer to being in denial about a loved one's infidelity. Something along the lines of "you believe your eyes are wide open, because you know this person so well, but you see nothing."
Now I think it's a play on the blurred line between reality ("being awake") and the realm of dreams and fantasy. Hell, this movie doesn't just blur the line, it obliterates it. Actually, I think the title works on both levels. Thoughts???
- The mask lying beside Alice on the bed as she slept. How creepy was that? My first thought was that the thugs guarding the secrets of the orgy club had left it there as another warning to Bill. But no, that didn't seem quite right, somehow. Given the film's themes, I assume it was meant to blur the line between dreams and reality. Did Alice just have a nightmare about fucking other men, or was she actually at that party? Neither interpretation feels wholly satisfying to me.
- What I found brilliant about this movie was the many levels on which it played with the ways reality is filtered through our own perceptions. It starts on a relatively simple level. Bill's perception of his wife, himself, and everything about sexuality were shifted by Alice's confession about the naval officer. Suddenly the world we see -- through his eyes -- looks different. Everywhere he looks, on the street, people make out in dark corners, guys talk about lap dances, and intermingled sex and danger abounds. As his perception of reality becomes increasingly skewed, we see the world, through his eyes, as increasingly frightening, surreal, and depraved. I didn't articulate this last point very well, but it's something I'd like to keep pondering.