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Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
The emperor has no clothes
Reading other user reviews it would seem that a favourite line is that EWS is supposed 'to make the viewer think'. Let me decode that line for you. It simply means that the movie, especially in terms of character, makes no sense whatsoever, so you are left wondering what in the world these people were doing. So yes. I thought. I thought, 'Wow - this is an incredibly bad film.' Again, reading other reviews, I am confronted with the idea that perhaps Doctor Bill's wanderings through NYC are really just some kind of dream or fantasy sequence. I don't know where this idea came from - perhaps the book itself but I can definitely say that it DOESN'T come from the film. There is nothing to suggest that you are in a dream or fantasy world - it is played straight. And because of this it fails miserably because neither character, but especially Cruise's, acts in a manner that follows normal human behaviour.
SPOILER ALERT Bill states quite clearly in the argument between he and his wife that he is not a jealous person. Nothing is particularly shocking about Alice's admittance that she wanted to have adulterous sex with a Naval officer that would suddenly cause this to change in Bill. And yet suddenly we now see Bill obsessing over the image of his wife engaging in adultery in his mind, and at this point the whole movie loses the plot. We see a grieving daughter that hardly knows him profess her undying love to him. Who knows why. He then decides to visit a prostitute - only to not go through with it when his wife calls, even though there is no indication of the relief of an escaped mistake. Despite this ' I can't cheat on my wife' moment - he then suddenly becomes incredibly curious about his piano friend's secret gig - that he goes to an awful lot of trouble to steal into the event to see for himself. Why? It just wouldn't have happened. Bill's character is not that sexual driven - he not that sexual compelled - hence him not having sex with the prostitute. He wouldn't have gone there. And when he did get there- he certainly would have gone running at the first sign of trouble - i.e., the masked woman telling him to get out of there.
I could go on and on about these strange behavioural choices. And I understand true 'tragedy' where a character is compelled by their character to follow their seeming fate through to a destructive conclusion - but there were no signs of destruction in Cruise's character - nor was there a fatal and destructive end. So it was all pretty pointless. Add to it an incredibly trite ending in a toy store where the moral of the story is 'we need to f**k.' If that sounds bad- let me assure you - it really really is.
In terms of sexual matters - overt and subtle and the machinations of sexual desire - David Lynch captures more truth in a single surreal scene in almost any of his movies than this one does in almost three hours. I don't really think Kubrick and sex go together at all.
Beautiful Performances But..
Reading the plot outline on IMDB gives a indication of what is wrong with this film. You get the sense that perhaps the film did start out as one about six teenagers and their lives, but through editing choices, it became a story about Alzheimer's. Bits of these other characters come and go in the movie and you're left wondering why they were there and how they fit into the film. It really wasn't even about Iris Murdoch since you find out little about her books, her life and what she really thought about the myriad of things that she wrote about. Having watched it, I think that perhaps there was a much better movie that is lying on the cutting room floor somewhere.
That said, it IS a stunning collection of performances. Jim Broadbent gives a portrayal of John Bayley that is poignant beyond belief. The nuances in his facial expression and the manner in which he shows how Bayley loved Murdoch - without reservation and almost child-like, was incredible. Judi Dench is also wonderful, as always, but many of her moments that made it to the film are in the non-coherent phase of Murdoch's illness, giving the performance a slightly impersonal facet that perhaps mirrors the illness itself. Winslet gives the better of the two female performances, capturing an extremely vital and intriguing woman in her prime of life. Her performance imparts a lot of the frustration of the movie, since having watched her, you really do want to learn more about what made Murdoch tick. Finally, Hugh Bonneville rounds out the main cast with an equally incredible performance that captures Bayley so well that it is uncanny. (Why his name isn't included in the opening credits along-side the other three is beyond me.)
So please go and see the movie if you love seeing great actors doing great work, but expect to be a bit disappointed with the film overall since it doesn't quite seem to know what it wants to be about.