Another look at Eyes Wide Shut – A review of Stanley Kubrick’s last and final film

I rarely do summaries of films. Just go to Wikipedia if you want that.
But this still may contain spoilers!

It’s hard to believe that the guy who directed 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange could create something like Eyes Wide Shut.

Is that a compliment or an insult?

Well, depending on how you look at it – eyes open or not – it could be a bit of both.

Costume and mask worn by Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut displayed at Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibit, TIFF, Canada.

I’ll be honest. Except for perhaps in Minority Report, I never really liked Tom Cruise’s acting chops. At times in this film I look at him and he just looks like a full human penis. As if a person were a penis. Or a penis a person. His character Dr. Bill Harford reminds me of all the shallow, idiotic sports goofs I had to endure in junior school right up to high school and beyond.

Back in the day, we called them jocks. I don’t know what they’re called now but I can spot them. Stupid, giggling sexual provocateurs who think life’s a big joke as long as they are on the bullying, cheating side of things.

Well, Cruise isn’t that bad in this film. But his character is pretty shallow.

Same with Nicole Kidman. Is she a good actor or overacting as Alice Harford? I can’t say. But I did not like the character she portrayed. A giggly, slightly off-base rich kid who sobs and weeps because she was once attracted to another guy and more recently has a sexual dream about him?


Another reviewer said this film didn’t work because it was not grounded in any kind of reality. I sort of agree.

At one point, I got the distinct impression that Kubrick as a fairly old man (70 years at the time) was taking advantage of his exalted position and power so he could just film lots of naked young women. In other words, that he was just an old pervert posing as an “artist.”

Kubrick – “Oh look at those lovely breasts! Did you notice they’re all the same? Pert and pointing upward? And that well-trimmed…” [satirical embellishment — ed.]

Those are pretty harsh words for the great man. And I imagine not everyone would agree.

I did love 2001: A Space Odyssey. For many years it was my favorite film. Even Pope John Paul II loved that one. Maybe it still is my all-time fav, however dated and stale it may be from watching so many times.

Sure there are some nice shots in Eyes Wide Shut. Kubrick was a stellar photographer before he went into movies. Several scenes reminded me of the groundbreaking vistas found in 2001, as if Eyes Wide Shut is a faint reverberation of Kubrick’s former glory. Even some of the wooden acting in the film’s superficial ‘society’ scenes reminded me of similar sequences in 2001. But back in 1968 it all somehow worked—and with no-name actors, to boot. In 1999, however, it’s just a star-studded flop.

At least that’s how it seemed watching today in 2020.

My life was in transition in 1999 as I was virtually bankrupted by a creepy person who did not keep his word; thus I was forced to move back home with my parents. So I wasn’t exactly in the right headspace to sit down and enjoy this film when it first appeared in ’99.

Even now, some 20 years later, I still had to pause this movie several times before wading through it to the end. Not exactly a nailbiter. Actually rather slow.

Apparently, Kubrick died just a few days after submitting the final cut for this film at age 70. A bit like David Bowie, who died around the same age at 69, Kubrick lived just long enough to complete his own send-off. But Bowie knew it was coming, Kubrick did not.

And guess what the last word of the film is?


I think that sums it all up.

A mediocre effort from an aging voyeur who’s largely out of touch with what’s really happening.

That’s the impression I got.

Sorry guys. Sometimes even great players strike out.

Oily old European snake hitting on the young “New World” woman…

10 thoughts on “Another look at Eyes Wide Shut – A review of Stanley Kubrick’s last and final film

  1. Edit – Just made a few minor tweaks for clarity. Added mention of the film Minority Report.
    6:39 am – added spoiler alert in introductory comment.
    11:23 am – Edited the “oily old snake” caption. For those who saw the original caption, that was sort of an “in” joke that only some would get. I felt it important to put it up that way at least for a little while but since it’s also a stereotype I changed it. Like Kubrick in some of his other films, I edit even after I publish.🤣


  2. I’ll take the bait and argue the toss. I think this is Kubrick’s best. I see the things you see as wooden and fake, and imagine them as deliberate choices. Someone with that kind of money and power doesn’t put nudity in his film for cheap thrills. I think it’s a radical, career-ending curtain call that exposes the male domination and elitism of modern society. It takes the Cruise character we know from other films and crushes him utterly, and the final scenes see his daughter quietly being taken away by the (male) guests from the oppressive opening party. It’s a chilling film about the futility of taking on and beating an ancient, male-driven, explotative system, and I think it’s a brilliant movie with hidden depths. I prefer to think films are made by genuises rather than idiots, and this one works for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for commenting and I’m glad you took the proverbial “bait” on this. You called it right in that regard. I realize that I was being somewhat provocative and there were moments I did enjoy and where I was quite engaged. This review is just my impression over the past few days. In another month, who knows how I might see it.

      While writing the review I also realized that even the title could be seen as a bit of a premonition, considering K’s death was – unknown to him – looming. Death figures prominently in the film, along with the themes you mention.

      To support my review, however, the secret society part seemed far too theatrical and refined for me. And the ‘hookers’ (not sex-workers as we now say) were far too ivy league in appearance. Those segments in the apartment seemed so thin.

      Also, I saw the concierge as a pretty sad gay stereotype. He was so obviously checking out Dr. Harford from head to toe, and yet covering his face with his hand to indicate some kind of shame and/or psychological dysfunction. A gay just couldn’t be a normal person, I guess. He had to be chipper and yet flummoxed… a real 1960s stereotype.

      The costume guy and his daughter were pretty good. But I like Leelee S. quite a lot! 

      Thanks again for your input. The truth is in the middle… and more. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Liked Leelee S too! I know what you mean about the party, but a quick look at Epstein’s ‘events’ and the kind of girls ‘procured’ would suggest that K was not far off the mark. And the concierge scene might seem like a stereotype, but might be seen as one of the indignities that Cruise hoes through; mocked as short and gay elsewhere in the film. My guess is that the hate for this film comes from Kubrick biting the hand that fed him; all opinions are valid, though!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You make a good point about Cruise being taunted on the street. That actually happened to me once in a small-ish city and I was foolish enought to cross the street and try to be nice to the guys. They tossed me around like a tennis ball, at which point I went into Tai Chi mode and went limp. I survived without a scratch.

        Also, the point you make about current sex rings, not to mention human trafficking etc., crossed my mind. Actually, just as you say: K might have been “seeing” a bit into the future there too.

        Holy smokes… you’re going to get me loving this film! 😅

        Liked by 1 person

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