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Review by Jay Rittenberg

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Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Written by: Stanley Kubrick and Frederic Raphael
Starring: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack, and Leelee Sobieski

I am still having a hard time deciding which of the following two things is troubling me more: that some of this country's top critics showered so much praise on the late Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, or that talented actors such as Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise were unable to produce any other cinematic effort in nearly two years because they were still working on this utterly disappointing film.

There's no denying that the late icon was a mastermind, but when the words genius and masterpiece are associated with the filmmaker's farewell film, then I begin to wonder out loud if I was watching the same picture.

As far as the principals are concerned, Kidman is a terrific actress, who we lost out on seeing in at least a handful of more meaningful projects. As for her husband, Cruise was somehow able to squeeze in an Oscar nominated turn in Magnolia, and will, undoubtedly, swallow up the almighty domestic box office whole this summer with his sequel to Mission Impossible, but he spent even more time on the Eyes set than his wife - making it seem like an eternity since Jerry Maguire. Come to think about it, after watching Eyes, I think this is the thing that upsets me the most. He lost out on two years (in his prime) and his fans suffered a whole lot more in the process: a two-year drought with no silver screen Tom.

As for the director's silver screen swan song, this sexual odyssey starring Hollywood's premier husband and wife team - and one of its biggest commercial assets - is really as artsy as you can get and is everything the director was: secretive, calculating, and deliberately slow-paced. The film is visually stunning. Although it failed to pick up even one measly Oscar nomination, the sets, costumes, lighting, and photography were all gorgeous and, along with the musical score, a perfect complement to the film's overall dark and gothic atmosphere and tone. Once again, it's a visual delight; it's just too bad everything else about it was so appalling. Maybe I just didn't get the point, but after nearly three hours of tortoise-paced boredom, I didn't want to play Sherlock Holmes any longer.

This overly complex film is easy to dissect: one night after attending a party given by millionaire, Victor Ziegler (Sydney Pollack), one of her husband's friends, art curator Alice Harford (Kidman) reveals to her doctor husband Bill (Cruise) that she almost (emphasis on almost) cheated on him once with a handsome sailor (the fantasy sequences of this affair is probably the steamiest thing this picture had going for it). The couple fight and Bill - still reeling from the shock of his wife's admission - storms out. He spends the next several ( countless it seems) hours wondering the streets of New York contemplating what his wife almost did and what he should do now with this important, new bit of information. He proceeds to discover and uncover a secret sex society, of which he is not a welcome member. He comes to find out much more than he should, and before you know it, his life, and the lives of his wife and daughter, is in great danger.

Too much time and energy was spent needlessly on the film's controversial NC-17 nature and its use of gratuitous nudity. The bottom line here with this one is that after all was said and done, the film simply did not live up to the hype. It is nowhere near as sexy and erotic as promised. Instead, the legendary filmmaker delivers an dull, slow, and pointless movie that we spend too much time trying to make sense of. Sure, Tom's character is confused and tormented throughout, but with the innumerable shots of him walking up and down the streets of NYC over and over in despair, I think that it's the audience that's really being tormented here.

Maybe I missed a lot of what was going on here or just didn't let myself open up to the powerful messages that Kubrick's film was supposed to convey. But maybe I saw the director's finale for what it was: forgettable fare.


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