By Leah Rozen
July 26, 1999 12:00 PM

Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack, Alan Cumming

It’s no trouble keeping your eyes wide open through Eyes Wide Shut, not with the constant sex talk and parade of naked bodies, but you will wonder if the film needs to be this long (2 hours, 39 minutes) and this slow. It’s a movie you should see a second time to appreciate fully its themes of love and lust and trust and truth, but the idea of sitting through it again anytime soon may be about as alluring as eating a hairball.

Eyes Wide Shut, for those just back from Mars, is an erotic drama starring real-life marrieds Cruise and Kidman. It was the last film directed by Stanley Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket), who died in March at age 70. Cruise plays a well-to-do Manhattan doctor, and Kidman is his wife, a former art-gallery manager who now stays home with their young daughter. One night, following a party at which both flirt with others, Kidman tells Cruise that once during their marriage she lusted in her heart after a handsome Navy officer. This provides motivation enough to send Cruise off into an extramarital tailspin, even popping by an orgy at which the naked guests all wear masks. The orgy, and a subsequent scene in which Kidman tells Cruise about a sex dream she had, dive deeply into—and splash awkwardly about—the Jungian dream pool.

Kidman is the draw here. She shows off more skin, swings wider emotionally and offers finely nuanced line readings. Cruise, after his winningly loosey-goosey display in Jerry Maguire, disappoints in Eyes, relying on gestures—drawing his palm down across his face to denote suffering—instead of emotions.

What exactly is the point of Eyes? Kubrick, who based the film on Traumnovelle, a 1926 novella by Arthur Schnitzler, seems to be saying that there is good and bad in everyone and that one has to explore one’s bad side to appreciate the good. Just pack a compass. (R)

Bottom Line: Marriage gets tested, and so do viewers