I was kind of worried about seeing Eyes Wide Shut to be honest, what with all the sex in it and everything. I had the opportunity to see it for free so I couldn’t really bring myself pass it up. It turned out to be very good and even though it was somewhat uncomfortable in spots I’m still glad I went. I’m finding this out more and more, but if you are unsure about seeing a movie just go for it, because chances are it’ll be good. That’s what keeps happening to me anyway.
Eyes Wide Shut takes place over Christmas in New York City. Dr. Bill and Alice Harford (Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman) go to a Christmas party given by one of Bill’s patients, Victor Ziegler (Sydney Pollack). This Hungarian cheeseball tries to pick up Alice but ends up only dancing with her. These other two two models try to seduce Bill (and he’s pretty awkward about it, unlike Alice who is relatively graceful) but they are interrupted by a messenger from Ziegler. A woman with whom he was presumably having sex with overdosed and is now completely passed out. After he wakes her up, Bill assures her that she will be okay and promises Ziegler not to tell anyone about it.
Bill and Alice go home and the next day we see them going about their normal lives. Later the next night they get stoned (which seemed kind of random to me, but whatever) and talk about their relationship and the events of the previous night. Alice admits that the Hungarian guy did just want to have sex with her and then gets mad that Bill isn’t jealous. Bill understand his point of view and can’t really blame him, but he’s not jealous because he believes that Alice would never cheat on him. Alice gets even madder hearing that and turns into a male/female thing: “men have to stick it in every place they can, but for women… women it is just about security and commitment and whatever the fuck else! …If you men only knew…” and then she tells him about seeing this guy and desperately wanting to have an affair with him despite still loving Bill. She admits to having fantasies about him even when she was with Bill. Bill is just kind of taken aback by this and stares at her blankly until the phone rings.
Thus begins the madness. The phone call summons him to the house of a patient who has just died, and the man’s daughter literally throws herself at Bill. Bill’s kind of awkward about the whole thing once again and he leaves once her boyfriend shows up. He just wanders around New York for awhile, and of course the first person he talks to is a prostitute (Vinessa Shaw). He goes back to her apartment but his wife calls him before anything happens, and he is either too embarrassed or guilty so he leaves. He doesn’t go home though, he walks around some more and encounters a friend of his who dropped out of med school and is now a professional piano player. He tells him about this gig he plays blindfolded and moves to a different place every night. A password and a costume is required to get in. Bill gets the password from him and sets out to get a costume. It is not fully clear whether he knows exactly what he is getting into.
This part is probably the closest the film comes to being funny. It’s really not if you think about it, but just something about Milich (Rade Sherbedgia) that had me smiling and almost laughing. Milich is the guy he gets the costume from, making him open his store late. When he’s getting Bill a cape he hears something and finds his daughter who’s probably fifteen or so with too older Asian guys. Obviously something funny was going down there. He gets really mad and chases them away, also getting mad at his daughter who seems pretty comfortable with the whole thing. She hides behind Bill, but trust me she does not look scared, she just wants to hold on to Bill. Let’s face it, everybody comes onto Bill in this movie which is strange but also kind of humorous when you step back and think about it. That’s one of the aspects of the film that make it creepier and also made me doubt Bill’s reliability somewhat. The thing he is, he hardly ever reacts to any of these people. What’s even stranger is when Bill comes back to return the costume Milich tries to pimp out his daughter to Bill when the night before he was so protective of her. It’s hard to tell which one really happened, or if they both happened then why the sudden attitude change?
So anyway, once Bill gets his costume he goes to the mysterious meeting which turns out to be some sort of secret sex society. Somehow they discover that he is not supposed to be there, and are going to do something to him but one of the women interferes. Later Bill finds out she’s dead. Not only that but she was the same woman who overdosed at the party. Ziegler summons Bill to his house, reveals that he is a part of the secret society, and tries to dissuade Bill that the woman’s death was not connected to the society. This was odd from my point of view because he was also trying to get Bill to stop trying to find out who they were, which would have been easier if he had told Bill something like “we could get you next!” Regardless, Bill leaves and isn’t really sure what to do. Before this, Alice had told Bill of a dream she had that sounded somewhat similar to what Bill had witnessed, except without all of the formality. She is having sex with a bunch of guys in the dream and laughing at Bill, but is crying when she wakes up. Later when Bill return’s home from Ziegler’s the mask he wore to the meeting is lying on the pillow next to Alice, and he freaks out and tells Alice everything.
One of the most interesting things about Eyes Wide Shut for me was the distinction between acting on something and merely thinking about it. Neither Bill nor Alice actually has sex with anybody else, but the whole thing seems pretty adulterous. When Alice is originally telling Bill the fantasies she had that started the whole thing, it seems like she’s confessing an affair when in fact she hasn’t really done anything, just thought about it. Then Bill goes off and tries to do something similar, but can’t. He comes close a couple of times, and it’s not like the opportunities aren’t there because there are so many opportunities it’s not even funny. I couldn’t even tell if he was legitimately wanting to have sex with anybody because most of the time he’s so awkward about it and nothing happens, but the fact remains that he keeps trying. Bill and Alice seem pretty okay with the whole thing by the end of the film, which would sort of suggest that since neither of them actually had sex with anybody it’s fine. But there’s a problem with that theory because thoughts are what started the whole thing in the first place. It’s hard to say which is stronger or has more bearing on their relationship; I plan on trying to figure that out when I rewatch it.
Another thing I noticed about the film is that it contained a lot of pairs. People come in twos much of the time and seem to be similar or almost interchangeable. Even though a lot of the movie focused on Bill’s attempts to have sex without his wife, they still seemed connected throughout for me because of the fact that he would not be doing any of it unless she had brought it up in the first place. It’s like Alice has the fantasies and Bill tries to act them out. If you put them together it would be like one person. Another example of this is when Bill goes back to visit the prostitute and her roommate is there instead, and it’s implied that she’s a prostitute as well. They may as well be the same person. Ziegler and the woman that overdoses are not the same, but they occur at the same time. Ziegler’s at the party, the woman’s at the party. Ziegler’s at the secret meeting, the woman’s there too. Two models try to seduce Bill at the beginning, and two Asian guys are fooling around with Milich’s daughter. I can’t really figure out the significance of all of them specifically, but I think there’s something to be said for it reinforcing the themes of fidelity. The password for the meeting is “fidelio” and Bill and Alice’s relationship seems stronger in the end. People come in twos because that’s how they are meant to be. There are any of numbers of things it could refer to though, because a lot of things come in twos so that’ll be another thing to look for next time.
So yeah, this is one of those films that even though I watched it I still don’t have a firm hold of what’s going on. But it’s not like I just have no idea what happened, there are some thoughts going around in my mind and I will definitely watch the film again to try and solidify my opinion of it. Someone pointed out that there were a bunch of steadicam shots in the film that I actually noticed but didn’t label them as steadicam because I didn’t realize that’s what they were. I thought they were really cool and it makes me want to see The Shining now for its steadicam shots. Also notable was the use of all the Christmas lights and bright colors in the film. The lights gave a nice contrast between all of the sexual stuff going on and the holiday of Christmas, which is noted for the absence of sex. Both of them emphasized how nightmarish everything was, especially when the creepy masks were added in. Eyes Wide Shut is an interesting and masterfully executed film that demands more than one viewing.
“When a promise has been made here, it should always be kept.”
Long story short: 4/4 stars