Well, if you’re going to go out, you might as well go out with a bang (all innuendo intended). What a shame that it is such a misogynistic, narrow minded, old man’s dream of a bang. Director/writer Stanley Kubrick was never a stranger to controversy… he was an artist and committed to his vision of the films he wanted to make. This final project brought his life’s opus to a baker’s dozen… 13 movies that utterly changed film and garnered a ton of awards nominations and wins.
But awards don’t necessarily indicate quality or levels of enjoyment. Eyes Wide Shut is a challenge to watch. Like many of his films, it takes its time (well over 2.5 hours) to get to what amounts to a one-line joke/comment. I can’t tell if Kubrick really intended it all seriously or as thumbing his nose at the cinema universe.
It begins intensely and believably enough… a marriage challenged by time and the beginnings of middle-age and career frustration. Tom Cruise (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) and Nicole Kidman (Genius) embody the couple… and do so, weirdly, at the end of their own true-life marriage. The growth of discontent and jealousy leads by degrees to places you would never expect… at least for Cruise. Apparently, Kidman’s discontentment isn’t important enough to be acted on, she can only have dreams influenced by it.
To be a little fair, the entire tale could be considered through the eyes of Tom Cruise’s character, and perhaps untrue. You have to squint very hard to buy that as some of the tale is initially through Nicole Kidman’s eyes, but it may have been the thrust of it all. Sorry, I really can’t help myself, it is all just obvious verbiage.
Plot aside, it is packed with a wonderful stew of actors from Sydney Pollack (Sliding Doors) to Alan Cumming (Strange Magic) to a very young LeeLee Sobieski (My First Mister) and other recognizable faces throughout. Each small role has its moments. Kubrick allowed them to flesh out the characters to something more complex than just a walk-on. Like the rest of the film, they tend to be hyper-sexualized in odd ways.
This film also has one of the simplest and most-haunting scores I’ve experienced, by composer Jocelyn Pook. The single-note refrains get under your skin and evokes mystery, longing, and the unknown all at once. It reminded me of the motifs in Les Revenants.
I’d avoided this film for many years, mostly due to the Cruise/Kidman reflected reality. I’d seen images from it for ages… like many of Kubrick’s films he created iconic and memorable visions that become overused outside of the film itself. I honestly don’t think I could have appreciated aspects of it when I was much younger. This is a film aimed at someone in midlife or later. It requires you to be questioning your life and relationships in order to sympathize with Cruise on any level. Without a little simpatico he is simply being an asshole and Kidman his doormat. Ultimately, it sort of ends up that way anyway, but you need to hope it won’t. Perhaps a better way to view this in the cinematic universe is that this is one of the first big movies mainstreaming sexuality which ultimately gave us 50 Shades and its attendant movies. Wouldn’t that thought make Kubrick spin in his grave?