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KubrickÔs final riddle

By Casey Dexter
Arizona Summer Wildcat
July 21, 1999
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Arizona Summer Wildcat

Nicole Kidman stars as Dr. Alice Harford, with Tom Cruise, as Dr. William Harford, in Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut," which opened in theaters nationwide on Friday.

Arizona Summer Wildcat

Before his death earlier this year, director Stanley Kubrick was known for his extravagance and eccentricity, both on set and off.

In "Eyes Wide Shut," he isolated two of Hollywood's most bankable stars - Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman - in England for close to three years. He spent 14-hour days perfecting each individual scene.

He closed his set and swore every cast and production member to secrecy.

In fact, the only information given to the press was that this movie would have sex, and lots of it.

And after months of anticipation, this Friday the public was finally given the privilege of viewing Kubrick's final "haunting" tale. And you know what? It really wasn't worth the trouble.

Granted, "Eyes Wide Shut" is an interesting story about a married couple who discover they may not be as perfect as they assumed. It is 'mysterious,' and it is 'edgy,' and Tom and Nicole do get naked, but it really isn't so spectacular and outrageous that we needed three years of secrecy and "Phantom Menace"-like hype (which no movie ever needs) before we were granted permission to see two movie stars making out.

Although Kubrick spent months on set with his actors, it seemed to me that he may have actually needed a little more time in rehearsal before rolling the cameras. Actually, that isn't fair to the majority of the performers.

In particular, supporting actors Alan Cumming as the desk clerk and Rade Sherbedgia as Milich were brilliant scene stealers. Director Sydney Pollack was sufficiently creepy as the womanizing Ziegler and even Tom Cruise was adequate as our hero, Dr. William Harford.

While I often find myself cringing at Cruise's use of an open mouth to express astonishment, anger, disbelief, joy, etc., etc., he actually kept his jaw shut for the most part, even covered behind a mask for a while, and he could still portray believable emotions.

It was in fact Mrs. Cruise who needed to add a little more depth. Every time she was on screen - which isn't as much as you would think - I wanted to pull her aside and let her know that normal people - even those really, really, really upset - do not add a dramatic pause between each word that they say.

As movies that revolve completely around sex go, especially movies hyped as virtually mainstream porn, the recent comedy "American Pie" was more explicit.

Perhaps the true 'haunting mystery' of Stanley Kubrick's final film is not something found within the plot or something to figure out as you lay in bed at night trying to sleep. It is simply the fact that, yes, that man who picks up a phone is Greg from "Dharma and Greg."

His appearance in a film, let alone a Stanley Kubrick film, is the riddle Kubrick has left to haunt us all.