Eyes Wide Shut - Hated this the first time. Only saw a portion of it again a few years ago, but was more into it. Another viewing and I have a feeling I'll enjoy it.
This is quite possibly the worst film I've ever seen. My roommates and I actually turned it off about 20 minutes in, but decided to stick it out and see what all the fuss was about. The dialogue is some of the worst I've ever had the displeasure of hearing. It was like extremely bad theater with characters spouting quasi-philosophical sound bites ad nauseum. Bad dialogue can be saved by good acting, but again the film fails terribly with deliberately distanced, wooden performances.
Having recently re-watched Band of Outsiders I was offended by Hartley's heavy handed lifting of the classic dance scene.
I hate using the word pretentious, because I doubt anyone sets out to make a film they don't think is special, but this is the most pretentious piece of utter garbage I've ever watched.
If it was in my power to ensure that Hartley could never make another film. I would exercise that power.
Eyes Wide ShutEyes Wide Shut (1999)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Everyone wants to f*ck Tom Cruise in this movie - a couple models at a party, a Nicole Kidman doppleganger with a dead father who can’t pronounce her “R’s,” a prostitute who doesn’t even want him to pay for wasting her time when he gets cold feet, a teenage Russian china doll, the prostitute’s roommate (also Kidman-esque) and Alan Cumming all want to f*ck Tom Cruise. Nicole Kidman is the only person who is not hot for Tom. I’m tempted to go very metatextual with this, but I’m just going to leave it at that.
The film starts off with a nice little scene of Bill (Cruise) and Alice (Kidman) getting ready to go to a party. They pay almost no attention to one another, there’s a nice little moment involving diegetic music and they’re out the door. At the party things quickly become much odder. Bill is called away and Alice gets drunk and is aggressively pursued by an older Hungarian man (we know he’s Hungarian because he says, “My name is Sandor Szavost. I’m Hungarian) who seems to have sprung to life from a coffee commercial. Anywho, just describing the plot would take pages, so let’s just say there’s trouble in Marriage-ville, Alice admits to Bill that she nearly had an affair in the past so he buys a costume from Boris the Blade and goes to an orgy.
There are some very good things about this film. The art direction and cinematography are outstanding. Cruise gives a solid performance throughout. Kidman is much spottier and basically disappears for the last two hours of the film, but has half a great scene. The scenes between Cruise and Kidman one on one have remarkable intensity at times.
Then there’s the rest of this train wreck. The first half of Kidman’s great scene (not the great half) involves her pretending to be stoned. It is quite obvious Kidman has never smoked marijuana in her life and her slurred, giggly line reads are downright laughable. Then she tells the story of how she once really wanted to have an affair and would have been willing to throw their whole marriage and family out the door for one could screw and things get nice and intense for a few moments.
Then there are a lot of things that are even dumber. A crew of Yalie frat boys randomly and heavy-handedly hurl a slew of sexual insults at Bill on the street; the orgy scene, while beautifully filmed, is utterly ridiculous; Sydney Pollack basically tells Bill that he’s been punked and everything at the orgy was a charade; Bill goes to see the prostitute the next day and her roommate very clearly seduces Bill then when things are starting to heat up sits him down to tell him her roomie tested positive for HIV (seriously, WTF, this scene makes no sense) and then there’s the final scene where Cruise and Kidman spell out the film’s themes just in case the viewer wasn’t able to pick up on them in the last two and a half hours.
Basically the film goes completely off the rails as soon as the Cruise/Kidman confrontations end and it just follows him on his stunted sexual odyssey. It’s obviously trying to explore some interesting ideas, but it fails miserably.Trust (1990)
Directed by Hal Hartley
As my quote above suggests, I had a rather adverse reaction to the one and only other Hal Hartley film I’ve seen, but I was still curious to see this.
Trust follows the plight of Maria, a seemingly dimwitted high school student whose announcement that she’s pregnant causes her father to have a heart attack and die, and Matthew, an intelligent misanthrope who can’t stand compromising his principles to work crappy jobs and has an incredibly oppressive father. The two meet by chance and form an unlikely romance while Maria tries to find a missing baby while deciding whether or not to get an abortion.
This film is so great it is hard for my brain and heart to take it. Adrienne Shelley (RIP) as Maria gives a performance that is so funny, so unique and so sincere that I would put it up there with Giulietta Masina in Nights of Cabiria as one of my all-time favorite performances. Here is a monologue that she delivers perfectly:“You know, I'm looking at this guy, right? And I looked at him a lot before. So now I know that I've got this little piece of him actually in me. Physically IN me. And it makes me feel completely different. I don't know, sorta special or something. And so I'm talking to him. I'm talking to him and I realize... I'm talking to him and I realize that he doesn't even see me. And I wonder what it was he was seeing when we did this. I go over it in my head and I know now what he's seeing. It's really simple. He's seeing my legs. He's seeing my breasts. My mouth. My ass. He's seeing my c#nt. How could I have been so stupid? That's really all there is to see, isn't it?”
All of the characters are totally over the top, but the dialog was a lot more natural than in Simple Men (which is saying it’s still pretty stilted), and there were so many great exchanges and great lines that despite the artifice, the characters and words reached to the heart of the ideas and emotions Hartley is exploring.
I thoroughly enjoyed Martin Donovan this time around. He’s got some great lines:Maria: Not because you love me or anything like that?
Matthew: I respect and admire you.
Maria: Is that love?
Matthew: No, that's respect and admiration.
And the scene of him going into the bar and terrorizing everyone there was absolutely hilarious. Meritt Nelson is very good as Maria’s distraught and controlling mother, and Edie Falco is excellent as Maria’s unflappable sister (with an amazing gold down jacket). John MacKay as Matthew’s fascist father was the only person who didn’t really blow me away.
Really, the film is all Shelley. It’s a joy to watch her search for clues in an effort to find a missing baby and to see her turn from a fairly clueless girl into an inquisitive and ambitious young woman heading out on her own.Verdict:
Pretty obvious, though I really didn’t see this coming. Trust in a landslide over Eyes Wide Shut.