"Spellbinding." (Janet Maslin, The New York Times)
"Riveting, thematically probing, richly atmospheric and just occasionally troublesome." (Todd McCarthy, Daily Variety)
"Half brilliant, half banal, but always the work of a master director." (Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times)
There are others, too; other less kind ones. The late Kubrick's final opus, Eyes Wide Shut, opening today, is going out the way it came into the world on a London soundstage, lo, those many years ago: with much fuss.
For the benefit of our Martian readers, the long-awaited, reputed sex-fest stars real-life couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in an R-rated psychological drama about a husband (Cruise) driven slightly bonkers when his wife (Kidman) reveals a sexual fantasy. Eyes is winning praise for being adult (read: intelligent), and/or getting slammed for not living down to its steamy hype.
"The film has the structure of a thriller...," Roger Ebert writes in a three-and-a-half star review for the Chicago Sun-Times. "It also resembles a nightmare..."
To Stephen Hunter of the Washington Post, the nightmare is that Kubrick showcases his beloved Kidman ("all feminine eros morphed into a kind of meta-goddess") in "anti-erotic" scenes.
The film, Hunter writes, "feels creaky, ancient, hopelessly out of touch...It's empty of ideas...empty of heat."
His ultimate dis: "Eyes Wide Shut turns out to be the dirtiest movie of 1958."
That's a slam echoed in two semi-pans in the New York Post. (In dueling reviews, the film rates no higher than two-and-a-half stars.) The Post's Jonathan Foreman rails at the movie for being unsexy, slow, unsexy, cold, unsexy, false and, above all, unsexy.
(All the New York papers are quick to point out that the Manhattan apartment shared by Cruise and Kidman on screen would carry a real-world multimillion dollar price tag--a tad steep, even for a doctor and art-gallery director, the Cruises' respective characters.)
Drawing the worst universal notices is the orgy scene--digitally obscured by Warner Bros. for the supposed viewing pleasure of American audiences. (Europe will see the uncensored version.) "A joke," sums up the Times' Maslin.
Ignored in most of the reviews are the two A-list stars, one of whom (Cruise) happens to be appearing on screen for the first time since 1996's Jerry Maguire. Kidman is often described as a riveting, if minor player; Cruise, as a mere vessel for Kubrick's machinations.
Kubrick died at age 70 in March, just after completing the final Eyes cut. It is his first new film in theaters since 1987's Full Metal Jacket--and only his fifth since the storied 2001: A Space Odyssey 31 years ago.