Eyes Wide Shut
I'm something of a cinephile but I feel like I haven't seen that much of Kubrick's work. I've seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange,
and Full Metal Jacket
several times each and that's about it. I did finally see The Shining
in its entirety for the first time last year and I thought it was excellent.
I had heard that Eyes Wide Shut
was a good final film for Kubrick but for some reason I had never seen it until now. Maybe there was too much hype? I guess I was expecting more, but now I'm starting to think maybe that was the point.
Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman play a married couple that seem to be in a rough patch. She confesses to him that she once fantasized about having sex with another man and she still thinks about it. That sets him off to head to the bad part of town to pick up a prostitute, but then he doesn't go through with it. He goes to a local watering hole where his friend is playing in the club band. The friend ends up mentioning a secret party that's been running for several nights where he is forced to play blindfolded so as not to learn the secret. Although it's probably not a good idea, Cruise goes to great lengths to crash the party.
Now this where the movie picks up and is surely why the movie generated all the controversy. The party is a secret masked ball for sex perverts, and perhaps religious zealots? I'm not sure if the version I saw was the uncut NC-17 version or the sanitized R version but I don't think it would matter to the story. I kept thinking Cruise would somehow get involved and pushed past his comfort zone but he is immediately discovered, kicked out, and told not to come back.
And that's pretty much the end of the juicy part. He keeps investigating, trying to get back in, I suppose. He learns that his friend in the band suddenly left town under mysterious circumstances. More people are keeping secrets and his investigation is somewhat tense, but the final explanation is fairly obvious and the consequences are minimal, to Cruise at least.
This whole movie felt like a sexual encounter with no climax, which is very unfulfilling, but maybe that was the point? In the end, a character who I won't call the mastermind because there is none, lays out the entire proceedings to Cruise's character. It's like the scene where the movie villain explains the entire plot before he kills the hero. But in this case he explains the entire plot and then lets the hero go. There's nothing else that needs to be done.
I also didn't quite sense the same visual style that Kubrick usually employs. They say he was a photographer and set up every camera shot so that it could almost stand alone as a portrait. I didn't see much of that in this movie, except for the mask ball, it was all pretty bland scenery. Again, maybe the point? So that the party would stand apart by contrast?
I'm pretty sure Cruise wound up out of his depth here. He's attractive, and he can play excited and intense, but for most of the proceedings when he should be stupefied or horrified he just sits there grinning ear-to-ear or maybe fake grinning. Maybe Kubrick cast him as an example of kind of a fake person that hides his true self behind this polished veneer but if that's the case, we never get to see beyond the veneer. I've seen Cruise act better than this but maybe he was just miscast? Or it was as simple as stunt-casting of a Hollywood power couple, I believe this was Cruise & Kidman's third time as an onscreen couple and they were married in real life at the time.
I'm really puzzled as to how Cruise picked up a newspaper towards the end of the film and read an article about a dead hooker and discerned that it was the masked woman he met at the club who helped him out. I thought perhaps it was the hooker he met earlier in the film and that was the connection but that turns out not to be true. I think.
I don't know, maybe I'll rewatch someday, but it seemed like much ado about nothing.
A guy got involved in something wild (Hooker died, maybe linked to her helping him), looked for a conspiracy, and the investigation went no where.
Yet there were questions, ..., stuff left unanswered, ....
These were movies of the 60s and 70s. Down with Establishment! What are they not telling us? Be rebellious. Question authority! Worked back then, great to watch back then, during THAT TIME. Or great to watch maybe 2 decades later. But so much of the world, our thinking, our taste have changed since then.
With X-files, there came people screaming conspiracies from building structures to people in government to restaurant planning. Now it's just unfounded rambling.
So, with Eyes wide shut, Conspiracy became a bunch of coincidences and happen-stances.
And the nudity, ...everything there was shocking, arousing, exciting, ...if shown during the 70s, ...but it's just ho-hum nowadays (Internet ruined the rebellious and titillating effect).
But I'm not one to hinder movie making. I want NC-17 adult movies, I want family movies, ...and I want up-and-coming movie makers to take this medium and make it better. Tarantino made a Western movie interesting and fun to watch, so others can do that for thriller, rom-com, sci-fi, animation and sexy movies.