When you’ve been dubbed a “genius” early on in your career, you really don’t have to do much to maintain the title. You just have to do. “Eyes Wide Shut” is a good case in point because it’s much ado about nothing.
Critics and various other pundits don’t dare dispute Kubrick’s “genius” because that would be like letting on to others that maybe you weren’t smart enough to ‘get it’. With “Eyes Wide Shut”, however, there’s really nothing to get. It’s garbage. It’s 2 hours and 49 minutes of utterly boring garbage from just about the first scene to the most persistently annoying “look at me, I’m supposed to be suspense” single note piano music that pounds away at you like a jackhammer on a migraine … right to the bitter end.
I’m glad this was Kubrick’s last film. I don’t think I could stomach another from him after this.
Stanley Kubrick didn’t die of a heart attack shortly after completion of this film. He was strapped to a chair with his eyes held wide open (much like his character in “A Clockwork Orange”) and forced to watch it from miserable opening to even more miserable ending. He died of either boredom or lament that this marathon length debacle was on its way to the public and he couldn’t save it.
So this is his final legacy? Maybe it was really suicide that did him in.
“Eyes Wide Shut”, written by Kubrick and Frederic Raphael (“Darling”, “Two For the Road”) is based on a 1926 novella called “Traumnovelle” (Dream Story) by Viennese writer Arthur Schnitzler. It details the sexual confusion and desires of its main character Dr. William Harford (Tom Cruise) after he learns from his wife Alice (Nicole Kidman) that she once came close to having an affair. It doesn’t take much to stir Harford’s fantasies, apparently, because this puts him in quite a dither and he goes about lost in the night, looking for some action of his own. I’d hate to think what might have happened if she actually had had that affair.
He finds out about a special invitation-only orgy in a rich Long Island mansion and crashes it after acquiring a lavish costume to fit in. Here we get to see oodles of full frontal nudity but female only (of course) – Kubrick is another director not adverse to exploiting women on a large scale and this is the single element that will cause everyone to go rushing to this highly impoverished film. Warner Bros. is counting on it because it’s marketing its X-Rated version in Europe.
In any case, Harford’s presence at the party is discovered and he’s ousted with a heavy-handed warning and an indication that the woman who ‘saved’ him will meet with an unhappy ending. Terror, if you can call it that, ensues (there’s that damn piano music again), at least for Harford and it’s eventually all explained away by Sidney Pollack’s character, some rich guy who Harford knew who was also an attendee at the orgy. Ho-hum.
When Harford asks his wife at the end “What should we do now?”, I wanted to yell at the screen …”Put each other out of your miseries!”.
This had the elements for a suspenseful drama, if it had been pared down to an hour and a half and Kubrick weren’t the director. As it was, Kubrick seemed to luxuriate in long, drawn out conversations that were far from compelling with the exception of one Kidman monologue. He seemed intent on showing female nudity at every turn which signals to me that by the time he made this he was some kind of inept old fart of a man who got off on pornography. His choice of music was beyond comprehensible. If this was all done for shock value, then even there he was off the mark. As far as a “European flavor” to the film, yes, I can honestly say it had that – if low lighting and grainy film is your idea of European (I know it was in a lot of the films from the sixties). Edgy stuff? Snore, snore, snore! Cruise should hurry up and get that second “Mission Impossible” made so we can all forget he ever made this monstrosity. And for Kidman, find a movie where you can keep your damn clothes on! You don’t need to be doing this.
Warner Bros. is using three quotes in its ad for this film from three top critics: Richard Schickel of Time Magazine: “Stanley Kubrick’s haunting final masterpiece. Vivid. Brilliant. Unforgettable.” He’s right, I will never, ever forget how horrendous this film was. Jack Kroll of Newsweek Magazine: “Kubrick’s most personal work. From the already famous ‘mirror’ love scene, played with carnal sweetness, to the anger, fear and pain of their final confrontation, Cruise and Kidman are open and touching.” I think Kroll meant to say that Kurbick was making a home movie when he said ‘personal work’ because the quality sure looks it. Robert Ebert of the Chicago-Sun Times: “A strong and important work, a worthy final chapter to a great director’s career.” I Think Ebert is still suffering the loss of his famous critic partner Siskel and is not yet in his right mind.
Stanley Kubrick wasn’t a genius. He was another director (like Terrence Malick) who should have stayed retired somewhere far away where no one could find him. What a sad legacy, indeed.
Lotta says if I had a picture of an elephant pissing, I would have used that instead. As it was, this was a 2 dog movie – a first for me. Bubba, my hubba-hubba actually booed the film when the closing credits came on and you know what? I wasn’t even embarrassed!