***SPOILER ALERT - I'M GOING TO EXPLAIN THIS MOVIE! ***
It's a shame that this film was promoted as a "hot" erotic thriller. Kubrick would not have allowed that marketing campaign to go forward had he been alive. Sure there's a lot of eroticism in this movie, but those who go to it looking for sexual thrills are going to be (and were) sorely disappointed.
The events in this movie are triggered by the protagonist's wife's revelation that she almost slept with another man. This kicks off a range of emotions and prompts him to re-evaluate his sexual relationship with her, subsequently leading to a trip through his sexual SUBconscious. This is the critical point that all too many viewers miss, though it's so overtly surreal I don't see how one could miss it. None of this is real! It's called Eyes Wide SHUT for a reason!
All of our protagonists' "encounters" represent manifestations of his sexual fantasies and fears. His fantasies include group sex, sex with a teenager, sex with a prostitute, sex without strings. His fears include disease, homosexuality (notice the brutal and brief encounter with the gay-bashing gang), and most of all: discovery. Discovery of his hidden fantasies, which might reveal his true nature to the world. Discovery that he is really a pretender, doesn't really belong, and is not worthy after all. This latter is probably universal, and in his case while it has sexual dimensions it is not purely sexual. In the end he realizes that his fantasies are just fantasies, at least some of his fears are legitimate, and that instead of just fantasizing about sex he should actually have sex with his wife. Not rocket science here, but plenty of people need reminding of this from time to time, and it's a well-told story.
I was fortunate enough to first see this movie in theaters overseas, and was spared the atrocity of digital editing to make things less explicit. David Lynch did the same thing more recently in Mulholland Drive, and I hope that this is not the beginning of a trend. Given all of the explicit gore and brutality in movies, the level of sexual explicitness that triggers the censors is simply laughable. Frankly, having seen the un-edited version, I didn't think it was a big deal.
One can't dismiss criticisms that the nudity was all female and many of the women were depicted as sexual objects, but this movie is quite pointedly a trip through a fairly conventional man's sexual unconscious and necessarily told from a male point of view. So none of these things should be a surprise. It would be very interesting to see a comparable exploration of the female sexual subconscious by an accomplished woman director, though I'm not holding my breath that the Hollywood establishment will allow that to happen soon.