Eyes Wide Shut is an erotic thriller and the last film created by legendary director Stanley Kubrick, who died only days after completing the movie. The plot follows Dr. Bill Hartford (Tom Cruise), a gentlemanly physician living in New York City who embarks on many a sexually-loaded adventure after his wife, Alice (Nicole Kidman), drops a colossal shit test on his head. Bill visits a prostitute, sneaks into a secret sex orgy and flirts with the idea of sleeping with a soon-to-be married woman. In the end, he returns to his wife. Although the couple decides to remain together, it is clear that Bill and Alice still crave novel sex outside of the marriage.
Stanley Kubrick is my favorite film director. Hollywood pumps out movies like cheeseburgers from a McDonald’s drive through window. Kubrick would spend years writing a single script. His dedication to perfection drove actors mad. In point of fact, Kubrick holds the Guinness world record for “Most Takes in a Dialogue Scene”, because he forced Shelly Duvall to redo the famous baseball bat scene in The Shining a whopping 127 times. He dug up antique NASA film lenses to make the cinematography in Barry Lyndon look like an 18th century painting. Kubrick should be a synonym for quality. The man poured his soul into every project.
I decided to rewatch Eyes Wide Shut this weekend, because I had not seen it since my friend Patrick and I caught a covert viewing of the nudity-filled movie on HBO after his parents went to bed back in 7th grade. Back then I only cared about naked women. I decided to see it again as an adult and find out what is really happening in this film.
Like all of Kubrick’s movies, Eyes Wide Shut is beautifully shot. It is so easy to spot a Kubrick movie. You know he is behind the camera when every frame looks like an expertly shot photograph. One could watch a random Kubrick movie, pause it randomly, print the image, frame it and sell it to an art collector. Eyes Wide Shut is the same way. This movie is filled with gorgeous naked women from start to finish, but the film also captures a dark and dreamy New York City underworld that is equally as alluring (almost).
Bill Hartford is an interesting character. He’s a big phony. Bill is a wealthy, well-connected, intelligent and very handsome doctor. Long-legged aristocratic women solicit him for threesomes. Sexy married women beg Bill to mount them. One scene shows Bill performing a breast exam on a woman that could pass as a super model. Basically, Dr. Bill Hartford could turn New York City into his own personal sexual smorgasbord if he choose to do so.
One night, Bill’s wife asks him if he is tempted to have sex with other women. Instead of dropping some game on her skinny ass, Bill pulls the number one Lame Dude Card of all time: He snowflakes himself. You see, MOST, men are tempted by wet, young hotties, but not Bill. He is special. He’s a gentleman and he doesn’t even think like that. Bill digs himself into a hole, telling ridiculous lie after ridiculous lie. He claims that he NEVER has sexual thoughts at the office, not even when a ten sitting topless on the examination table. It gets worse. Bill throws the entire female sex up on a pedestal by claiming that women do not harbor thoughts of infidelity and wild affairs. Alice finally has enough of Bill’s vagueness and backpedaling. She looks him in the eye and admits that she has fantasies of being ravished by other men. Bill is hurt. He slinks into a world of devious sex. Although, it is important to note that while Bill puts himself in several sexually charged situations he technically never cheats.
I do not know what Kubrick personally believed about promiscuity or open relationships. That being said, Eyes Wide Shut could easily be interpreted as an aesthetic argument against sexual hedonism. The scenes of sex and romance are arousing, nevertheless, they are always coupled with elements of danger and creepiness.
For example, Bill almost sleeps with Domino, an attractive prostitute, before he is interrupted by a phone call from his wife. Later, he discovers that Domino is HIV positive. Bill also sneaks his way into an elite, vaguely satanic, clandestine orgy. He is caught before he gets a chance to enjoy himself, which (seemingly) leads to the murder of a high-end call girl, along with the beating and disappearance of his pianist friend Nick. There is also a weird scene where the owner of a costume store implies that he has sold his pretty, teenage daughter into prostitution. He even hints that Bill is free to rent his daughter anytime he pleases. In the world of Eyes Wide Shut extramarital nookie always comes at a cost.
The film has a clear plot. Man enjoys a comfortable life with pretty wife and young daughter. There is trouble in paradise. Man rebels, voyaging into the big, bad world to sow his wild oats. Man learns the error of his way and returns to his nice family. It’s pretty basic but it doesn’t feels that way when you’re watching it on account of the film’s dreamy tone and scenes of apparent randomness. Eyes Wide Shut definitely has an art house vibe. Don’t worry, though. Kubrick was no post-modern hack. This is a very interesting movie.
It’s too bad some scientist didn’t save a sample of Stanley’s DNA for cloning purposes. A world should never go without a Kubrick.