On a symbolic level this movie might have worked, but Mr. Kubrick's unflinching look at fidelity, fantasy, and marriage is too often undermined by silliness.

EYES WIDE SHUT

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


Stanley Kubrick can be admired for leaving this life on the heels of a bold effort. For Eyes Wide Shut, he persuaded America's sweetheart couple to conspire with him in exploring the ennui that envelops marriage under the weight of parenthood and time. Unfortunately the intentions of Kubrick, Kidman, and Cruise are far more interesting than their film. Director Kubrick undresses Kidman in the first scene, cleverly eliminating the temptation to build suspense for the unveiling. He even sits her on the toilet to make sure we know this is an honest film. The movie moves so slowly that irrelevant observations bubble unbidden into your mind: thin women move like stick figures, full women jiggle, men's bodies remain unexplored, even in a movie full of women made naked for men's pleasure. Why are filmmakers so terrified, in this no-shock age, of the naked male body? Why are we asking these questions when we are supposed to be absorbed in the film? Bill and Alice Harford (Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman) have been married for 9 years, have a 7-year-old daughter, and attend ritual events for people who count. At the opening party in a sea of rich, reed-thin New Yorkers, they allow fantasy and flirtation to invade their sanctuary-he with two imbecilic professional partygoers, she with a would-be debonair Hungarian who waltzes her awkwardly around the room while leering down at her and muttering inane suavities. The couple moves easily through the urban power world, Bill as doctor to the powerful, Alice as his appendage, but the emptiness of their lives is diminishing them. Alice tells Bill of her fantasies about a naval officer; Bill obsesses, and sinks into a New York walkabout, encased by a loyalty that keeps him from experiencing whatever is offered. And then there's the orgy, a kind of Plato's Retreat in Renaissance dress. Americans, still considered too pure and puritan for such things, will see the R-rated version while Europeans see the real thing, rated NC-17. Just try staying serious watching computer-generated sex. A husband and wife try to rekindle their passion by inviting each other into the treacherous waters of their own fantasies. Although Kubrick, Kidman, and Cruise work in earnest collusion, they seem to be working in a vacuum, sealed off from today's culture--perhaps because the film is based on Arthur Schniztler's book from an earlier time. On a symbolic level this movie might have worked, but Mr. Kubrick's unflinching look at fidelity, fantasy, and marriage is too often undermined by silliness. The good intentions of Ms. Kidman and Mr. Cruise will leave them intact as America's sweethearts, but the audience may well need a big breath of fresh air. A pivotal point arrives when Bill is invited to pick up a pool cue. We hope desperately that our straight-arrow doc will pierce the heavy artistic fantasy, smile a crooked smile, and knock a ball into the corner pocket. Alas, he declines. This movie loves its own darkness.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 500
Studio : Warner Bros.
Rating : R
Running time : 2h25m


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