Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Oh, My Eyes Are Shut...I'm Sleeping: "Eyes Wide Shut" (1999)

Stanley Kubrick's final film is an artful mess that will hopefully be forgotten in light of his better work. Just because a cinematic genius dies after completing a film does not mean it will be destined to be a classic.

Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman are an unhappy doctor and his wife. They go to a party. Kidman flirts. Cruise flirts. They flirt and flirt. See Tom and Nicole flirt. They drink and flirt. Then Tom is called upstairs to talk to Sydney Pollack.

Apparently Syd's last few films have bombed, and...oh, wait, that was the conversation in between takes. Tom helps Syd's hooker out of a drug induced stupor. Tom and Nicole are on the verge of cheating on each other.

To make a very long movie short, Tom goes to a mysterious mansion where an orgy is going on. Tom is discovered. People begin disappearing. The ending is wrapped up in one neat and tidy package, and Tom and Nicole get back to making good movies, and a divorce.

I glossed over the plot, and let me explain. The plot does not matter! All of Kubrick's films have been screenwriting nightmares. "Full Metal Jacket": the first half was great, the second sucked. "The Shining": Kubrick hated King's book, and it shows. "Dr. Strangelove": a little long, with Peter Sellers having to play multiple roles (again) in order to make it entertaining. "Barry Lyndon": almost as slow as this film. "2001": do not lie to yourself and pretend to "get" the ending to that one, and so on and so on.

Kubrick is better known as a visualist, but here he fails as well. Not wanting to shoot in New York City, but in London, Cruise must act as if in the Big Apple and interact sometimes with the ancient backscreening process. It was not believable for one minute.

I think this film will go down in cinematic history as Kubrick's Hallway film. Never have I seen so many hallways in my life. Characters walk up hallways, they walk down hallways, they talk in hallways. The camera follows everyone to the hallway. I thought I was watching some nightmarish new show on Home and Garden Television: "Hallways! with Christopher Lowell".

Every scene here runs long. Every scene. Forty five minutes could have been trimmed off of this easy, and probably without losing any dialogue. The harsh piano score is also a punishment for the ears, it generates headaches and dizziness, not suspense or intrigue.

Tom Cruise? Awful. He runs around the English set, flashing his doctor's credentials like he is Dennis Franz on "NYPD Blue," and delivering all of his lines as if he, too, had no interest in what was going on. Nicole Kidman, when drunk, high, or sleepy (90% of her screen time) talks very slowly and it takes her five minutes to spit out a sentence or complete a line. Both actors have no chemistry together, and flounder under a lack of motivation. The shoot took a year, and it shows. Tom and Nicole's hair will change length and color, sometimes in the same scene; check out Nicole's dream recounting scene. The ending is tacked on, the supporting players will disappear after their scenes as if Kubrick and his cowriter stopped for lunch and forgot where they left off.

I think this is heralded by some because Kubrick was worshiped, therefore this work should be worshiped. Even geniuses have off days (or off years in this case), and I consider "Eyes Wide Shut" a pretentious, dull, unentertaining, lazy mess. I would rather remember Stanley fondly for better films.

If I want to watch a film about too-beautiful people and their sexual problems, I will rent an episode of "Red Shoes Diaries." (*) out of five stars.