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Friday, 13 January 2017

Retro Review: Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Eyes Wide Shut 
Cast: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sidney Pollack, Thomas Gibson 
Genre: Erotic Drama
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $160 million 

Plot: After Dr Bill Hartford's wife, Alice admits to having sexual fantasies about a man she met, Bill becomes obsessed with having a sexual encounter. He discovers an underground sexual group and attends one of their meetings - and quickly discovers that he is in over his head

'Eyes Glued Shut More Like'

For 2 long hours, sitting through Eyes Wide Shut was a long monotonous, agonising torture. I don't expect the dialogue to be mindblowing or anything either, but the pacing of the film was too slow and so slow, I could nod off, wake up and not miss much of it. And it just felt like random monologues and conversations that are pieced and strung together with little or no coherence and connection. 

The story follows Tom Cruise's character, Dr Bill through a night of sex and orgy that never happens with him. After his wife reveals to him that she was considering having an affair with another man a year earlier, Bill embarks on a journey that involves infiltrating a secret orgy society filled with masked members. But as interesting as this plot sounds, the actual events themselves in the film and the film itself leaves a lot to be desired. The whole erotica aspect is blown way out of proportion - just where was all that hot sex between Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman?- to the extent to which this is so downplayed and with a story that is on the verge of sheer tedium, as well as being mundane and long overdrawn.  

Bill finds himself embroiled in this mystery society and yet chooses not to partake in any sexual activity - which is strange. 

It takes more than having the names of Sidney Pollack, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman attached to this so-called film. And by taking away them, Eyes Wide Shut but for the nude scenes, has practically nothing much to show for it. Though the film was lauded as an erotic masterpiece, watching it fully it is not erotic but also it is far from a masterpiece. In fact, it was dull and sleep-inducing for me. It sets the tone of what ought to have been a highly sexually explicit drama, but instead, we get convoluted scenes about infidelity which don't have much substance, and nor do they amount to much. 

The dialogue ranges from okay to mediocre with constant F-words being blurted out, there is a scene where Bill and Alice are arguing with each other; Nicole Kidman, as much I enjoy her performances in her other efforts, as Alice she is a bit too over-the-top here and her performance is below par in comparison to films like Cold Mountain, Australia, Moulin Rouge. The storyline is conceived in such a strange way, which was a bore to sit through. 

Usually, many erotic dramas and thrillers -or be it the good ones have twists, things that make it watchable - this one doesn't. It's practically one banal dialogue to another. One would expect this film to have an interesting narrative, given the massive hype this film had when it was touted back in 1999. There is no tension building up, no real twists whatsoever - Kubrick definitely dropped the ball with this one that it is a shame that given this was his last ever film he directed before he'd died, it turned out to be very underwhelming. The characters are lifeless, lacking in development, the film feels weary and cumbersome, the longer it drags on. 

Just what were some of the critics going on about with this film? 

Final Verdict:

Eyes Wide Shut is one of those films people and critics have lauded because it is artistic in its way in approaching sex and love; unfortunately, these aspects are so downplayed and as a result, Stanley Kubrick has delivered a rather bland and at times agonisingly tedious tale of infidelity. With a subject matter such as this, one could have foreseen a much better conception and direction and a more satisfying script; instead, it very much feels static and exceedingly dreary with nowhere left to go.  

Cited as an erotic thriller and one of the most expressive takes on the subject, this is actually one of the most unsexual and sexless films ever made that that eroticism was all talk, all hype but no substance. There is more eroticism in Body of Evidence and Basic Instinct than in this film.

Eyes Wide Shut didn't entice, nor stimulate the viewing experience but it bored me to death. Stanley Kubrick set out and achieved what he wanted in say The Shining and what that film ought to have been about. This one, however, is nowhere near the level of that film.

With a run-time of 3 hours and virtually no payoff by the end of it, it feels like there should have been so much more to this film. But alas, we don't get it, I don't get it - and for that, Eyes Wide Shut's vapid and spiritless direction is what damns this effort. 


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