starring: Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman
I saw Eyes Wide Shut on its opening night, nearly two weeks ago. I'm writing this review now because, as it was the first time I saw almost every Kubrick film I've seen, it has taken me this long to figure out how I feel about what I saw. In that -- forcing an audience to think about a film long after they've left the theater -- Kubrick was truly a master. Ultimately, though, I've decided that I liked it.
First off, the movie and its plot were nowhere near what I expected. I'd heard various speculations about the plot -- the one that kept cropping up was that the couple were NYC sex therapists and that the film was a graphic tale of their lurid journey through the NYC sexual underground. This is very, very far off base. In fact, the film is about honesty in relationships and the consequences of confessing our basest desires to our partners.
Tom Cruise plays an NYC doctor whose wife (the beautiful and frequently nude Nicole Kidman) makes a disturbing confession to him (while stoned): while on a vacation together sometime in the past, she'd entertained graphic and overpowering desires to have an affair with an attractive stranger. Though she never acted on these impulses, her description of the desire is so powerful that it drives Cruise to distraction. A few timely coincidences -- the death of a patient and a chance meeting with an old friend, drive Cruise to a brief encounter witha couple of prostitutes and a dangerous secret society. Ultimately Cruise has to choose between keeping these disturbing encounters to himself or confessing them to his wife, potentially causing her the same pain she brought with her confession.
The film gets off to a shaky start. After a gratuitous (but oh, so delightful) shot of Nicole's naked butt as she gets ready for a party, the first 20 minutes or so are spent watching Kidman get drunk and flirty with a stranger on the party's dance floor while Cruise schmoozes two model-types and then revives an overdose victim in his buddy's lavish bathroom. This entire scene portrays a seedy, unpleasant side of these characters that is not really seen again in the film, and is an odd way to introduce characters who turn out to be really anything but seedy.
After this first bit, the film takes off with Kidman's confession and Cruise's downward spiral. "Takes off" is probably the wrong term -- as with most of Kubrick's work, this film moves slowly and steadily and everything seems very carefully choreographed. But from the point of the confession to the very end, the film remains engaging. As always, there is a lot of Kubrick-style "quiet time" in the film -- long scenes featuring one character, say, walking down a street to a rich background score. I really enjoyed these moments -- virtually all of them feature Cruise, who does an excellent job in his role, and they give the audience time alone with the character while he thinks about what has happened -- I really enjoyed spending those moments with Cruise's character.
As I said, I think Cruise does a great job in his role. Kidman, aside from her initial scene, is also very good (and often very naked -- I'll say it again: there is nothing wrong with that!). In fact, the whole supporting cast is really strong, though often their painstakingly hidden British dialects float to the surface to break the illusion of New York City that Kubrick created in London. Direction, though heavy-handed (like all of Kubric's work) is very clean and consistent. If the film has real faults (beyond the first scene and a overall run-time that will scare the average viewer), it is in the soundtrack. The music is horribly overbearing at times and, though you can often feel the director's purpose in the music, it sometimes distracts from the scene at hand. I think this might be a fault of excellent new theater sound technology -- Kubrick is still editing soundtracks for chintzy 1970s speakers mounted behind the screen, and we are listening to it on ridiculously loud DTS/THX/SDS systems all around our heads. Then again, it might be purposefully overbearing. The man's dead -- we can't ask him.
Ultimately, as I said, I enjoyed the movie, and I think many people will. It is not the "final masterpeice" it was hyped to be (I still think 2001: A Space Odessy is his best), but it is a really good film. Many will be put to sleep by long periods sans dialogue, some will be put-off by opening scenes, and a few sick freaks will object to Kidman's constant state of nakedness or near nakedness.
But they will be wrong.