Eyes Wide Shut: a review

At a time when we’re steeped in Christmas classics, it’s tempting to explore the underbelly of holiday films: Christmas movies that don’t feel like Christmas*. Eyes Wide Shut, Stanley Kubrick’s controversial final film, is perhaps the least family-friendly of the bunch, unless your kids love meandering tales of urban misadventure, marital strife, and secret sexual cabals of rich, powerful men and doped-out supermodel types.

After a disturbing evening at a wealthy client’s holiday party and a disillusioning argument with his beautiful wife (Nicole Kidman), Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) wanders around the streets of New York in a fit of jealousy and envy. It’s never quite clear, however, what sparks his jealousy: his wife’s fantasy revelations or the sexual power his client wields. Bill all but sleepwalks through the film, which is a vague, quasi-sexual odyssey of frustration and missed connections, all shot against the background of a city festooned with holiday ornaments.

Though Eyes Wide Shut was promoted as an erotic thriller, it is anything but; it’s a dark examination of class and economic power. Even the Christmas trimmings and tinsel show the economic core of the film: the contrast between the lush decor of the upper-crust homes and the pathetic glimmer of downmarket locales speaks louder than words could do.

With its emphasis on the transactional dynamics that plague modern society, about the ways we try to buy and sell each other’s attention and affection… hey, it just may be a modern American Christmas movie after all.

* Tis the season… to be fed up with tinsel and carols, with bustling crowds and brimming cups of nog. If you’re exhausted from the holiday whirl, relax with these seasonal films that take place at Christmastime but are decidedly un-Christmassy. Here are a few more:

The Lion in Winter
Die Hard
Brazil
Holiday
The Shop around the Corner
Toy Story
Doubt
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Better Off Dead
The Apartment
The Proposition
Eyes Wide Shut
Meet John Doe
Twelve Monkeys
Three Days of the Condor
The Conversation
Bell Book and Candle
Gremlins
Diner
The Thin Man
Trading Places
Edward Scissorhands
The Ref
The Ice Harvest
Less Than Zero
The Matador

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