In “Kubrick’s ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ At 20,” I revisit my original review of the classic cult film and come to that same conclusion, it’s an Still Overrated Snoozer. The column, “Was Kubrick’s Iconic ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ Ever Sexy?,” can be read on WND, Townhall.com Entertainment, and on The Unz Review, which now surpasses The New Republic and The Nation in traffic.
Stanley Kubrick’s last film, “Eyes Wide Shut,” turned 20. I had reviewed it for a Canadian newspaper, on August 9, 1999, and found it not only pretentious and overrated, but quite a snooze.
This flick is the last in a series of stylized personal projects for which the director became known. Given the mystique Kubrick acquired or cultivated, this posthumous flop is unlikely to damage the legend.
For all the film’s textured detail, its yarn is threadbare and its subtext replete with clumsy symbolism. The screenplay consists of labored, repetitive and truncated dialogue, where every exchange involves protracted, pregnant stares and furrowed brows. “I am a doctor,” is Tom Cruise’s stock-in-trade phrase. An obscure, campy, hotel desk clerk delivers the only sterling performance. This is cold comfort considering the viewer is stuck with over two hours of Tom Cruise’s halfhearted libidinous quests.
“Eyes” is really a conventional morality play during which Cruise prowls the streets of New York in his seldom-removed undertaker’s overcoat, in search of relief for his sexual jealousy. Cruise’s jealousy is aroused by a fantasy his wife—played by then real-life wife Nicole Kidman—relays in a moment of spite, and involves her sexual desire for a naval officer she glimpsed while on holiday with their family. So strong was her passion, she tells Tom, that she would have abandoned all for this stranger.
The confession follows a society party the couple attends in which they both flirt unabashedly with others. Again, the sum total of the dialogue here consists in back-slapping guffaw-inducing genuflection to doctorness. We are treated to a grating peek at Kubrick’s view of the professional pecking order, a view which is reinforced when Cruise makes one of his house calls to a patient whose father has just died. The woman, body writhing like that of a snake in coitus—is this method acting?—throws herself at Cruise. Sex and death commingle in one of the many larded, symbolic moments in the film. The woman’s fiancé, the geek math professor, is depicted as a lesser mortal than the handsome doctor. ….