Cruising in the Village

Tom Cruise is no stranger to homosexual subtext. His movies Top Gun and Cocktail are splashed with homoerotic undercurrents dolled up in macho bonding that perfectly complement the real-life rumors that have dogged him since he did his underwear doo-wop in Risky Business. Perhaps these rumors reached Kubrick's finely tuned ears and played a role in his casting Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut. That surely would have brought dimension to a script sprinkled with hints of the love that dare not speak its name. When a gaggle of teenage thugs comes close to gay bashing the Cruise character while he is cruising in the Village (for what?), they inadvertently hit upon something possibly percolating beneath the neat-and-tidy surface of the good doctor, who is about to be unmasked. The sexual identity crisis he undergoes (or is supposed to undergo), triggered by his wife's confession of desire for a handsome sailor, may well include an unleashing of forbidden desire long kept in check. For why then also have an extended scene in which a gay hotel clerk, played by Alan Cumming, comes on to Cruise? Or a fleeting glance of two men dancing together in the Gothic orgy scene? We may even question the implication of that recurrent black-and-white image in the mind of the doctor of his wife being fondled by another man. Is he jealous because he'd rather be with the sailor?

Unfortunately, Eyes doesn't go deep enough and doesn't live up to its own suggestions: the movie is one big impressionistic dead end, stilted and out of joint with the times. Kubrick was in desperate need (whether he knew it or not) of an actor to bring the film to places that weren't fully scripted or even foreseen but were begging to be discovered and elaborated upon during the filmmaking process (which was apparently endless). Maybe that's what he wanted from Cruise, but the boy couldn't deliver. He is simply too cowardly or too limited to explore his character's, not to mention his own, sexuality in front of the camera. Instead of running amuck, he gets stuck. And stuck again. Running the gamut of emotions from A to B, Cruise never puts his ass on the line— as Kidman does— and never offers a gutsy glimpse into the hidden and emerging desires of his wound-up character. All we get is a stream of pseudo-charming smiles and eyebrow action passing for interiority. We don't even get an underwear dance.

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