Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Genre: Drama | Age: 17+


Ages 4 & Under -- No
Ages 5 to 7 -- No
Ages 8 to 9 -- No
Ages 10 to 12 -- No
Ages 13 to 15 -- No
Ages 15 to 17 -- With Guidance

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

DRAMA: (1999, R.) Wealthy physician Bill Hartford has an argument with is wife Alice about the nature of love and jealousy. Misinterpreting her reactions to his declarations of love and fidelity, and her confessions of bold sexual fantasies, he sets out on a two-day tour of the carnal depths of New York City: he visits prostitutes, fathers selling their daughters, and a pagan orgy sponsored by the super-rich. He eventually confesses all to his wife and they reconcile.

VIOLENCE/SCARINESS: No violence. A recently dead man is seen in a bed. A gang of youths accosts Bill and calls him names (in a reference to thugs in “A Clockwork Orange”). The pagan-like ritual might be frightening. Bill is followed and frightened by a very ominous man. One prostitute dies from a drug overdose and we see her corpse on a morgue table.

CRIMES: Prostitution (U), Drug Use (U).

MORALS, ISSUES & VALUES: Bill lies to his wife (and others) about his activities. Considerable sexual vulgarity and some profanity. Considerable blunt discussion of sexual activities. Like many of Stanley Kubrick’s films, “Eyes Wide Shut” is a meditation on deep philosophical and moral issues while masquerading as a genre film, in this case a sexy romance or even a soft-core porn film. Among the issues he confronts are the different ways men and women react to an internal fantasy life, the relationship between love and sexuality, and the distribution of physical and psychological power among men and women of different social/economic classes.

SEXUALITY & GENDER ISSUES: A great amount of nudity, including long sequences of full frontal nudity. Very realistic simulated sex. Nuclear family. Contemporary and traditional gender roles. Both Bill and Alice flirt with others, but nothing comes of it. Alice describes her sexual fantasies and dreams in explicit detail. Bill becomes so obsessed and paranoid about his wife’s sexual fantasies that his life begins to unravel. Despite all of Bill’s adventures, he never has sex with anyone but his wife. One of the prostitutes he almost sleeps with turns out to have AIDS. We see a seemingly pagan religious cult where masked, but otherwise nude women have public sex with masked men. One man sells his underage daughter, who appears in her underwear, for sex. Despite all the nudity and sex, there is nothing very erotic about it or the film.

SUBSTANCES: Alice smokes cigarettes (a doctor’s wife!). One prostitute dies of a drug overdose. Drinking is common at parties. Alice gets drunk at a party and it is implied that this makes her vulnerable to sexual overtures by other men. Bill and Alice smoke marijuana (which may be responsible for their argument).

BOOK: Based on Arthur Schnitzler’s obscure 1926 novella, “Traumnovelle” (Dream Story).

COMMENTS: Not a film for children. Almost everything in this (and any Kubrick film) must be seen as a metaphor. Kubrick feels that sex is very dangerous: sex without emotion is mechanical and can be deadly, there is the danger of death from AIDS, and uncontrolled sexual fantasies and jealousies can ruin a man’s life. The film also makes a strong anti-drug statement. However, unlike his other films, this one has a positive ending – Bill and Alice are reconciled by declaring their mutual love. Teens who are fans of Cruise, Kidman or director Kubrick (or have heard about the nudity and sex) will probably want to see this film (but will probably be turned off by Kubrick’s typical leisurely pace). Parents should be prepared to discuss with them the complex issues the film addresses.

STARRING: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Madison Eginton, Sydney Pollack, Sky Dumont, Gary Goba, Vinessa Shaw, Todd Field, Rade Sherbedgia, Leelee Sobieski, Todd Field.

ALTERNATES: Other Kubrick films more appropriate for young people are “Dr. Strangelove,” or “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Another film dealing with sexual issues is “Boogie Nights.” A film dealing with a man resolving his mistaken fantasies about a woman is “Casablanca.”


Nudity -- 5+
Sexuality -- 5
Physical Violence -- 1
Emotional Stress -- 2
Blood or Gore -- 0
Language/Profanity -- 4
Immorality -- 5
Parental Guidance -- 5
Watchability for Adults -- 4
Overall (For Kids of Appropriate Age) -- 4

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