Without fully seeing the early films of Stanley Kubrick, this seems a little unfair to be looking at his entire filmography and pointing out the weakest film. Undoubtedly, it's probably one of those early films that doesn't hold a candle, but let's be honest; from Paths of Glory to Eyes Wide Shut, that is when Kubrick was really a true auteur. That being said, Stan the Man only had 10 films to his credit from 1957 to 1999, and we all know Spartacus is not really Kubrick's (as he denounced it as his artistic vision as director.) So let's just say of the 9 truly fantastic Kubrick Film at hand, which one seems to be lacking the true greatness of the overall film making experience.
That being said, the selection we are working from here is as follows in chrono order:
Paths of Glory
2001: A Space Odyssey
A Clockwork Orange
Full Metal Jacket
Eyes Wide Shut
Looking at that list alone, I applaud the greatness of such a career. Yes it wasn't as prolific as say Woody Allen or Steven Spielberg, but at least none of these are truly awful. That said one is clearly not as good as the rest.
Bloated, boring and only redeeming in it's visceral brilliance, Barry Lyndon is the winner this time at Weakest of the Best. Barry Lyndon is a period piece that follows the story of Redmond Barry, a pathetic man-child, into the ups and downs of high society in 18th Century Europe. The long and short of it is, we get to follow the whimpy and poorly acted Ryan O'Neal (whose daughter, Tatum, won an Oscar which clearly has led him to be a jealous parent) galavant around in fancy dress and whine about his situation. His whole tale is dumb luck and everything that happens to him happens out of this lucky situation. That's basically the plot without running through the three and a half trudging hours of exposition.
Where Barry Lyndon falls flat is the story and the acting. From Ryan O'Neal's uninspired Barry to the long and disjointed plot of his life just adds for a recipe of boring film making. Long films don't have to feel long. The Deer Hunter is over three hours long and that film is riveting from beginning to end. But that's because plot wise, the story is enrapturing. Even other films of Kubrick's that are longer, like 2001: A Space Odyssey at least create a world so different and interesting that the long run time doesn't drag. The characters in Barry Lyndon are just so downright boring that watching them for over three hours just doesn't work. I will give it to Kubrick that his visuals are outstanding. The vision he has is pure art. The idea of moving picture has never looked so good. But the best films know how to take that idea of art and add entertainment and story to it. This is where Barry Lyndon fails.
Some may argue that Eyes Wide Shut is his weakest film, but here is why I didn't say that. The acting in Eyes Wide Shut is far superior and this makes you intrigued by the story, even if it tends to drag at times.
I've heard some people say that Barry Lyndon is what they qualify to be Kubrick's best film, and I dare ask you what it is that you say makes this film his triumph over, say, Dr. Strangelove or A Clockwork Orange or 2001: A Space Odyssey?
Next time on Weakest of the Best, I will jump back to music and attempt to find the weakest song on Led Zeppelin IV.