The Quarantine Stream: 'Eyes Wide Shut' Is The Perfect Alternative Holiday Movie

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a series where the /Film team shares what they've been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Movie: Eyes Wide Shut

Where You Can Stream It: Hulu

The Pitch: Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman are an upper-class married couple who have a fight about infidelity that never actually happened, leading Cruise's severely cucked character to stalk out into New York City looking to reclaim his manhood. He ends up at the world's worst/best Christmas party.

Why It's Essential Quarantine Viewing: At this point, it's safe to say that Eyes Wide Shut has become an alternative Christmas classic. The film opened in theaters in July, but it's wall-to-wall Christmas paraphernalia mixed with existential dread give off serious holiday season vibes.

Eyes Wide Shut was a big deal when it arrived in 1999. The hype building around the film was legendary – it was a new Stanley Kubrick movie, after all. And it was going to star then-married couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Ever the perfectionist, Kubrick took a long time to get the film made. In fact, the movie holds the Guinness World Record for the longest constant movie shoot, a period of "over 15 months, a period that included an unbroken shoot of 46 weeks."

And then Kubrick died. The legendary filmmaker screened a cut of the movie for Warner Bros. on March 1, 1999 – and then died of a heart attack six days later. Kubrick's death before the film's release has cast something of a shadow over the film, with many assuming that the film that we all got to see couldn't be Kubrick's final vision. After all, he kept cutting The Shining even after the film had been released, so surely he wanted to do more work on Eyes Wide Shut, right?

We may never know. But that doesn't make what we got any less of a Kubrick movie. At the time of release, Eyes Wide Shut left some people befuddled. Much of the hype surrounding the pic focused on how much sex was involved with the story, and yet, the final film is distinctly un-sexy. Sure, there's plenty of sex to be seen, but it's all shot in a cold, clinical way, which threw people for a loop for some reason. Were they expecting a Stanley Kubrick porn movie? Maybe!

In any case, Eyes Wide Shut is a singular work – a weird, hypnotic journey into the mind of a severely repressed guy. Tom Cruise does some of the best work of his career here – and he doesn't even have to run! Or risk his life! He just acts! Amazing! Cruise is Dr. Bill Harford, a handsome, wealthy doctor who likes to flash his medical license around like he's a cop with a badge. Bill is married to Alice (Nicole Kidman), and when we first meet them, they seem fairly happy, in a blase sort of way. But then the pair end up at a Christmas party and things take a turn. While Bill openly flirts with some women, and then gets called away to take care of a woman who has overdosed on drugs, Alice ends up being hit on by a stranger who wants to sweep her off her feet.

When Bill and Alice go back home, have some sex, and smoke some weed, things come to a head. The two end up talking about the party which in turn leads to talk about flirtation, which then leads to Alice confessing that one time, while the pair were on vacation, she spotted a hunky naval officer. Alice was so attracted to this guy that she fantasized about leaving Bill (and the couple's daughter) so she could run away with this mysterious sailor. To be clear: nothing actually happened. Alice did not have an affair. But she thought about it. And this confession is too much for the insecure Bill, who storms out into New York City. And when I say "New York City," I mean an obvious backlot – but the backlot only adds to the surreal, dream-like vibe of the pic.

Bill is determined to get back at his wife and reclaim his manhood, so he stalks around looking for quick sex. He picks up a prostitute, but when that doesn't pan out, he ends up reuniting with an old medical school buddy who is now a piano player. The piano man lets Bill in on a secret: when he's not tickling the ivories at shadowy jazz clubs, he's playing music at a big, wild orgy party. Bill wants in, and he wants in bad. So much so that he runs out to find a costume – it's a masquerade orgy party, you see – and takes a cab out to the middle of nowhere. But the orgy doesn't go as he expected, and poor Bill ends up having his identity revealed to a mansion full of masked strangers.

It's all so odd and off-kilter, and Kubrick perfectly encapsulates Bill's inner turmoil – his neurosis is laid bare for all of us to see. And, yes, the entire thing happens at Christmas. There's a Christmas tree in almost every scene, and the moody holiday lighting only makes Eyes Wide Shut all the more hypnotic. Neurosis, insecurity, weird sex parties – doesn't all of that just scream "the holidays" to you?