“No dream is ever just a dream.”
Lets get this out of the way: “Eyes Wide Shut” is not a family movie. The 1999 film is a jealousy-fueled journey through two “adventures” – one real, one imagined – filled with sex, drugs, and adults-only themes.
After a woman tells her husband that she thought about cheating on him, and she has thought of him cheating on her, he embarks on a journey into darkness during the holiday season where anything and everything can be bought for the right price – especially relationships.
‘Twas “Eyes Wide Shut”
The story begins at a Christmas party, where Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) and his wife, Alice (Nicole Kidman), both flirt with infidelity.
Two women suggest taking Bill to the end of the rainbow, but he is called away by party host Victor Ziegler (Sydney Pollack), to save a hooker named Mandy (Julienne Davis) who has overdosed. Meanwhile, Alice dances with a man named Sandor Szavost (Sky du Mont) who believes deception is a necessity element of any good marriage.
At home after the party, Bill and Alice smoke weed and fight about the idea of jealousy, with Alice revealing she once had a fantasy about cheating on Bill with a naval officer (which Bill then imagines in vivid detail as the movie progresses).
Bill is called away due to the death of one of his patients. Shortly after Bill arrives, the dead man’s daughter, Marion (Marie Richardson), kisses Bill and tells him that she loves him, but Bill rejects her advance.
A short time later, a hooker named Domino (Vinessa Shaw) approaches Bill on the street and invites him to come inside her apartment, which he does. He ends up leaving before anything can happen after he gets a phone call from Alice. This turns out to be quite fortunate for Bill, as later we learn Domino is HIV positive.
Bill then goes into a jazz cafe next door, where he runs into his old friend, Nick Nightingale (Todd Field), who is about to go play piano blindfolded at a mysterious party. Bill wants in, but learns he needs a costume and a secret password to get inside. This leads Bill to a costume store to get a mask, tuxedo, and a hooded cloak.
After a long cab ride, where all the Christmasy elements fade away (note the partially lit Happy Holidays sign at one point) and replaced with darkness, Bill arrives at a mansion, where he has an “interesting look around” at an elite ritualistic sex party, and is warmed by a masked women to get out before it’s too late.
But it’s already too late. Bill is found out and told to remove his mask and clothes. Before Bill can be properly punished, however, a woman says she will redeem him. Bill is allowed to leave, but warned not to make any inquiries or speak about anything he saw, or there would be a price to pay.
The next day, he discovers Nick has mysteriously checked out from his hotel. Later, he learns of the overdose death of Amanda Curran (Mandy from the opening scene, and also the woman who warned him to leave the sex party). In the most tense scene of the film, Bill realizes he’s now being followed on the street by a menacing looking man in a trenchcoat.
Bill is called to Victor’s house, who reveals that he was also at the orgy and knew everything that had been going on since the party. But Victor denies that his group had anything to do with Amanda’s death and says Nick was sent home to Seattle.
When Bill arrives at home, he finds his misplaced mask on the pillow next to Alice and starts crying, saying “I’ll tell you everything.”
Next morning, as they’re out Christmas shopping, Alice decides that the important thing is “they’re awake now, and hopefully for a long time to come.” Just don’t say the word “forever,” around Alice, as it frightens her.
Our Review of “Eyes Wide Shut”
Is “Eyes Wide Shut” a Christmas movie? Is it a forgotten holiday classic?
However, it’s impossible to deny the movie happens in the days before Christmas. It’s dripping with Christmas visuals in nearly every scene.
As an anti-Christmas movie, however, “Eyes Wide Shut” is pretty much perfect. It focuses on the most negative parts of the holiday (the selfish, fake, transactional nature of Christmas), rather than what we love about the holiday (family, love, and joy).
🌈 The Nice List 🎄
“Eyes Wide Shut” is often gorgeous. It’s loaded with holiday symbols (aside from the orgy, which is kind of an “Upside Down” world, completely devoid of anything Christmas).
The opening holiday party is filled with strands of lights from floor to ceiling; storefronts all feature lights and decorations. The jazz club is also beautifully lit by pretty much only multi-colored Christmas lights.
Christmas trees appear somewhere within every house, office, and business. You’ll even see poinsettias, Christmas cards, and the Harford’s daughter, Helena (Madison Eginton), watching “Bugs Bunny’s Christmas Carol.”
💵 The Naughty List 👺
“Eyes Wide Shut” is a very passive watching experience. It was hard to connect with any of the characters because everything felt so shallow. Nobody really seemed to care about anybody else, or even themselves at times.
🙈 The Not-So-Secret Secret Orgy 🙊
Nick sure did tell his old friend Bill a lot, even though they haven’t seen each other since medical school.
If Nick had such a super secret, password-protected gig (and presumably well paying), why would he threaten that by breaking this huge confidence?
Also, we never do know for sure what happened to Nick. Is he really in Seattle, or is Seattle code for Nick’s now living on a farm upstate, where he can run and play all day?
😴 Eyes Wide Shut, Indeed… 💤
There’s no reason this deserves to be 2:40 minute movie. The pacing is painfully slow.
All the great visuals and symbolism can’t make up for the uninteresting story.
👿 The WORST List 👀
🤖 Acting, Characters & Chemistry 🤖
In a word, all three were disappointing.
Kidman and Cruise, who were married at the time and were the biggest celebrity couple, had little chemistry as a couple, delivering robotic performances, including the sex scenes.
Supporting characters Marion, Milich, and Domino were the highlights, but honestly the bar was pretty low here.
💸 You Can Have Everything for a Price 💸
In this movie, pretty much everything and every person has a cost, or a price to pay. (And just how much money does Bill have in his wallet?) To wit:
- Alice reveals she was ready to give up her whole future to cheat on Bill.
- Bill pays Domino for her time.
- Bill pays extra for Milich to open his store and get the party costume he needs.
- Bill promises the cab driver extra to wait for him at the mansion.
- Masked Mandy warns Bill his presence at the party could “cost me my life…and possibly yours.”
- Bill escapes punishment at the orgy only when Mandy pays.
- Nick pays the price for letting Bill come to the orgy.
- Milich implies Bill can have his daughter for the right price.
- Bill is warned to stop making inquiries, or pay the price.
🤷♂️ That’s It, Folks? 🤷♀️
The ending is terribly lame. In different ways, both Bill and Alice are trying to feel alive. But they’re going about it all wrong.
Have they grown? No. Sure, they have survived their nightmarish journey, but nobody seems to have learned anything from the process.
They seem to think they’ve awakened from their zombie life. But are they actually awake? In trying to break out, it seems maybe they just realized it’s not worth it (because you might get sick, hurt, or killed).
In the end, there’s no treasure at the end of this rainbow. They fail to choose family or each other “forever” because that’s too scary of a word. And they choose to keep living their best, most superficial zombie lives.
Eyes Wide Shut
As a movie, we would probably rate this higher, probably a 4.5. It looks Christmasy, but it isn’t a Christmas movie. It just happens to take place near Christmas.