12 Days Of Christmas: Eyes Wide Shut

Stanley Kubrick’s last film was this delightful tale of Christmas sex and mistrust. Well maybe delightful isn’t the right word. In fact the first time I saw this movie, I hated it. The film was released after Kubrick’s death and Warner Brothers really had no idea how to market this movie. They tried to make it look like a sexed up thriller. With Tom Cruise searching for the truth against a mysterious organization, it’s sexy and thrilling dammit! While some of these things occur in the film, it’s not really what the movie is all about.

Tom Cruise stars as a successful doctor who is married to Nicole Kidman. At a Christmas party Cruise is called by the party’s host Sydney Pollack to help a prostitute who has overdosed. Later at home Kidman questions Cruise if had sex with the two girls she saw him with earlier at the party. He tells her no. Then Kidman tells him about a time when she fantasized about having an affair with another man. Cruise is upset by this and goes out into the night to try to have some revenge sex.

After a run-in with a prostitute fizzles out, Cruise runs into an old friend of his who tells him about a secret orgy party and how to get there. Cruise infiltrates the party and naturally gets caught. A woman takes his place as punishment and they send him on his merry way. Of course he starts trying to look into the whole affair.

Stanley Kubrick only made 12 movies over 5 decades. Some of these movies have included as the greatest pieces of cinema ever. Some aren’t quite as praised. This isn’t Kubrick’s best film but now that I’ve watched it a couple of times, I enjoy it more. It also helps that Warner Brothers have uncensored the orgy scene. They had previous digitally altered the scene by placing random people in front of everything, making it look a little silly. This was because they feared the NC-17 rating but Kubrick had final edit. So instead of actually editing anything they threw everything and the kitchen sink into the scene to make the film R-rated. It only took Warner 8 years to set things right.

Author: Shane Hnetka

Shane Hnetka spends most of his life watching movies and reading comic books, using his vast knowledge of genre culture for evil instead of good.

48 thoughts on “12 Days Of Christmas: Eyes Wide Shut”

  1. “Stanley Kubrick only made 12 movies over 5 decades.”

    And the pace was so slow, it feels like it took that long to watch them.

  2. In some movies, that pace worked — 2001, especially. In Eyes Wide Shit, it didn’t. But I blame Tom Cruise.

    I blame Tom Cruise for everything, however.

  3. Ryan O’Neil, Tom Cruise … Kubrick was a genius, in many ways, but he couldn’t cast to save his life.

  4. I agree with Stephen. I saw the movie because I like Nicole. I stay away from everything Thomas touches. I have never liked his work and don’t want to waste my time.

  5. Sorry, Ryan O’Neal had a great run in the mid-70s, and there’s nothing wrong with his job in Barry Lyndon. *SPOILER* His bedside speech to his dying son might very well be the emotional apex of Kubrick’s films, and wouldn’t resonate as profoundly if he had played things more to the surface earlier. What’s Up, Doc? and Paper Moon are both great O’Neal performances, and his understated work in Walter Hill’s The Driver (one of the inspirations for Drive) is worth a mention, as his bad guy turn in Zero Effect in the late ’90s.

    Where people have a lot of trouble with Kubrick and acting is that:
    1) He tends to gravitate toward what would be otherwise read as a mannered performance style, for purposes of detachment. People are a lot more accepting of this if it’s in a Brecht play, but in a movie it’s more problematic for some;
    2) Often, his screenplays put the protagonist in an observer position, rather than as overtly active (i.e. Barry Lyndon, Full Metal Jacket, Eyes Wide Shut). I think where Tom Cruise doesn’t work for a lot of people here is that Tom is known for overt emoting. Hell, even when you see him thinking onscreen, he looks like a caged animal.

    And I can’t imagine a better-cast film than Dr. Strangelove.

    (BTW, Kirk Douglas in Spartacus and Paths of Glory wasn’t Kubirck’s choice. Kubrick was Douglas’ choice.)

  6. Kubrick was entitled to some clunkers in casting.

    Malcom McDowell in A Clockwork Orange, the entire cast of Full Metal Jacket, Keir Duella in 2001, Peter Sellars, George C. Scott and Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove, Kirk Douglas in Spartacus and that movie about the French front in the First World War (title escapes me now) … his batting average was pretty high.

  7. Didn’t you find the cameo appearances by family members — daughter, stepdaughter,wife — got tiresome after a while?

  8. Douglas wasn’t bad in “Paths of Glory”, which outside of Adolph Menjou and George Macready had few faces familiar to the audiences of the time. In the case of “Spartacus”, Kubrick had very little control of the picture; Douglas was pretty much calling the shots.
    Kubrick’s casting choices have in the main been good ones.

  9. Wow, people chimed in really quickly while I was slowly pondering the reply to #10. Agree on Ryan O’Neill and Keir Dullea,as well as “Full Metal Jacket” and “Dr. Strangelove” casts – and what of the cast of “Lolita”? Superb. And who cares about the family walk-ons? Not I.

  10. Only family walk on I knew about was Kubrick using his daughter as the daughter the space bureaucrat was calling from the space station in 2001.

  11. I might find his casting his family members more tiresome if it were limited to only his films. It’s quite common, for better or worse, for directors to stick their family members onscreen (and mostly only noticed by those of us who watch credits and comb through IMDB, rather than the general movie-goer).

    Although this raises an interesting question: which director has actually cast his or her films perfectly throughout an entire career? I may have to ruminate on this one.

  12. #18: Wikipedia has the whole catalogue of family casting, should anyone care.
    As for Tom Cruise, he actually did some acting in “Minority Report”, “Collateral”, and “Magnolia”.

  13. Kubrick’s daughter was in 2001, Barry Lyndon, The Shining & Full Metal Jacket.

    His stepdaughter was in A Clockwork Orange & Eyes Wide Shut.

    His wife was in Eyes Wide Shut.

    When it came to cameos, Hitchock had nothing on this guy.

  14. Diss Maverick?!
    Most certainly not. It did receive an Academy Award nomination for costumes, after all.

  15. #23 I agree. Hitchcock had a certain je ne sais quoi.

    p.s. I’m not the only one who cares about cameos. Mr. Whitworth cares, as well. He doesn’t have time to say so himself right now. He’s too busy counting the hits on the website.

  16. Kubrick’s wife (at the time, to-be) was also in the end of Paths of Glory. His first wife was in Killer’s Kiss. His daughter scored Full Metal Jacket. His brother-in-law executive-produced all of his films post-2001. Etc., etc., etc. Guess he liked having his family around.

    Ron Howard and the Zucker Brothers would always put their respective mothers in their movies (the woman mangling her makeup application in Airplane! was the Zuckers’ mom). Spielberg even worked his dog into the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It’s really not uncommon.

    (As for a Hitchcockian cameo, I think the closest that Kubrick himself came was as the voice on the radio during the final urban assault scene in Full Metal Jacket. Although, apparently he turns up in the background in Eyes Wide Shut.)

  17. #26 “Apparently he turns up in the background in Eyes Wide Shut.”

    I’m sure you’re right.
    I missed it.
    I was trying to follow all the action.

  18. #19: good question in paragraph 2. Considering all the variables, it’s a wonder some movies got cast at all.
    Choice of soundtrack music: does it make or break a film?

  19. Does the soundtrack make or break a film? Hm. Well, I know it did wonders for “A Hard Day’s Night.”

  20. Music for films: a really good question that deserves more time and analysis than I can give at the moment. This gets into the realm of subjectively perhaps even more so than casting.

    Anecdotally, I can’t think of an example where bad music choice has sunk a film (whereas I’m sure that many would think that the casting of Tom Cruise sunk Eyes Wide Shut). Kubrick was certainly notable for his musical choices in many of his films, but at the time of its release many thought his use of existing orchestral works in 2001 was detrimental (but as time wore on, his decision seems to have been proven correct). Even among people I know who like Eyes Wide Shut, there are mixed feelings about the use of Ligeti’s Musica Ricercata (the minimalist piano work that plays several times throughout the film). Barry Lyndon greatly contributed to the international appeal of The Chieftains, and for many the soundtrack remains the most memorable part.

    I think that music scores can sometimes mire a film in the era of its production, and occasionally to the detriment the film: I’ve tried re-watching Chariots of Fire and find the Vangelis score instantly takes me out of the film (and not just because it’s not of the period in which the film is set; I find the particular sounds of the synthesizers to be unappealing for the tone of the film. I still think his scores to Blade Runner and Missing to be excellent, however).

    I can think of soundtracks that have exceeded the popularity of the movies for which they were made (O Brother, Where Art Thou? leaps to mind), but no, I don’t think that a film has ever tanked strictly because enough people found the music to either be subjectively “bad,” or that the music took them out of enjoying a particular film.

  21. #33, #34

    I like it, I like it.
    You’re very clever, Barb.

    p.s. I think the soundtrack added a great deal to Cameron’s Titanic. I’m not sure bluegrass would have worked nearly as well.

  22. Wow!!
    There’s ruminating — and there’s RUMINATING.
    I’m gonna have to think on this a while.

  23. A viewer has to work harder to follow an Altman film because of his distinctive use of dialogue – which is not a bad thing at all.
    #35, para 3: for me it’s the 1950s film noir soundtracks. Love the movies; hate the intrusiveness of the music.

  24. Gosford Park, certainly, was a bit difficult to follow. It’s those large casts, I think.

  25. Indeed.
    And congratulations, as well. You’ve set a December record for comments on a single post.

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