Webmaster’s note 1/17/2016: This is an old review from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content.
Eyes Wide Shut
review by Duryea Edwards
A Morality Fable …
An Erotic Tale Of Lust And Its Consequences …
Played Out By Joe And Jane Average …
Bill Hartford (Tom Cruise) has just been placed in a bind by his wife asking the proverbial “Does this dress make me look too fat?” sort of question. While high, she has confessed to the fact that she has lusted for other men. Six months ago it was a handsome young navel officer at a vacation resort. Last night, it was a refined older gentleman who danced with her at a Christmas Party.
Since her inhibitions are already down, Alice (Nicole Kidman) is now demanding to know how Bill feels about all of this. What does he think about her confession of lust? How does he feel in his heart about other women? Does he lust for any of the attractive young women that his position as a doctor places him into contact with?
Bill has no idea of what to say, and even if he did it wouldn’t matter. All of this is new to him, but Alice has been letting the whole thing fester for the past few months. She’s mad as hell at herself, but she’s taking it all out on him. It doesn’t really matter what he says or tries to say. Nothing will be right. She’s looking for him be wrong, so he has to be wrong.
Their exchange of information is interrupted by Bill receiving a telephone call telling him that a patient of his has died. He needs to go provide some emotional support to the man’s daughter. He also needs to have some time to think about everything Alice has told him.
As the story continues to evolve, we see the universal struggle between the forces of temptation and propriety being played out. The idea of possibly cheating on his wife, which was firmly hidden in the back of Bill’s mind, has now been pulled up to the surface by her recent confession. Fate obliges the situation by placing in front of Bill a series of circumstances which an average man would not even dream of encountering within the course of an evening.
Director Stanley Kubrick has attempted to construct what is called a plausible improbability. One event must lead to another in a manner which is highly unlikely but ultimately entertaining. In a screwball comedy such as Arsenic and Old Lace or A Fish Called Wanda, the viewer watches the story expecting to give it a few grains of salt. But Eyes Wide Shut is intended to be an erotic character study laced with suspense. A set of events which should be taking at least seven hours to unfold cannot be shown happening in only four. As the storytellers attempt to cram what should be at least 60 hours of action and character growth into a time span of less than 36 hours, the basic nature of the story becomes less believable than it would have been if everything had been allowed to stretch into one more day. Bill simply can’t be in that many places doing that many things in such a short span of time.
I’ll give the film a solid three stars. Cruise and Kidman are excellent as Bill and Alice, and the wonderfully erotic nature of the story helps to overcome the inconsistencies in the plot timing. I have read that the untimely death of Kubrick made it necessary for someone else to complete the final cut of the film. I can only wonder if having his hand there at the very end would have made a significant difference in the pacing of the story.