Eyes Wide Shut * * * * 1/2
Director: Stanley Kubrick.
Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick, Frederic Raphael.
Starring: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack, Todd Field, Alan Cumming, Marie Richardson, Thomas Gibson, Vinessa Shaw, Rade Serbedzija, Leelee Sobieski, Fay Masterson.
Director Stanley Kubrick has without doubt, offered up some of the most thought provoking films throughout his career. He is renowndly fastidious and with this being one of the longest ever shoots in history to complete (it took over a year), Kubrick’s fastidious nature payed off.
Happily married New York City doctor, Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) appears to have the perfect life with his wife Alice (Nicole Kidman). When she admits that she had a potent sexual fantasy about a man she never met and was tempted to cheat on him, he is left reeling from shock, and goes out into the Manhattan night where he meets strange characters and enters into a world of sexual adventure for the first time in his life.
First off, I love how Kubrick can make a room feel. He has a knack for crafting a place or scene that is vast yet claustrophobic. He gives a place importance, and here it is no different. Despite being set in the vibrant sprawling nightlife of New York City, we seem enclosed in the character of Cruise’s tormented doctor. Kubrick managed the same effect in “The Shining” and it also brings the actors to the forefront and enhances their performances. Speaking of which, Cruise and Kidman are very brave and dynamic here. Their real life marriage (at the time) effectively seems to permeate the characters, giving a very intimate portrayal of a strained, unfulfilled relationship. Cruise in particular smolders on screen, always heavily weighted on. There is an escalating sense of foreboding and danger in the experiences of Dr. Harford. Are they his fantasies? Or are they the world around him, that he has been cloistered from, now that his sexual desires and imagination have been reawakened? This is a film that is most certainly not for all tastes but has been judged unfairly in my opinion. It’s not the explicit orgy that people expected, but a deeply surreal psychological exploration of sexual tension, paranoia and jealousy, that if viewed from a subconcious perspective, is highly rewarding.
A rich, provocative meditation on the human psyche and sexual desires, anchored by a excellent central peformance by Cruise. One of Kubrick’s finest and sadly his last.