Vanilla Sky


Directed by: Cameron Crowe
Written by:Cameron Crowe
Starring: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, Kurt Russell, Jason Lee
Released: December 20, 2001
Grade: B-

I am sitting at my computer typing a review.  Or do I just think I’m sitting at my computer typing a review?  Maybe I should just “open my eyes” and find out?  Nah, fuck it.

From Academy Award winning writer/director Cameron Crowe comes Vanilla Sky.  The film has an interesting story.  It’s a remake of a 1997 Spanish film called Open Your Eyes which was directed by Alejandro Amenabar (and also screened at the Brisbane International Film Festival a few years ago).  Penelope Cruz plays the same roll in both films.  Amenabar made his Hollywood debut this year when he directed The Others starring Nicole Kidman.  Kidman split with Cruise after he developed a relationship with Cruz during the filming of Vanilla Sky.

The above coincidences make a better story than the film itself.  It begins with wealthy company owner David Aames (Cruise) being awoken after his alarm clock whispers “open your eyes”.  He wakes up, gets dressed and heads to work but it’s all wrong - the streets of New York are deserted and there’s not a soul in sight.  But suddenly he’s awoken after his alarm clock whispers “open your eyes”.  That’s what the film is all about - the difference between dreams and reality.

David meets “moth” Sofia (Cruz) at a party and the two feel love at first sight.  The catch is that David is currently screwing Julie (Diaz) who is jealous that he’s found another.  And so she does what anyone else would - she picks David up and then drives off a bridge at 80m/hr.  Julie is killed but David survives and awakes from a long coma with a heavily disfigured arm and face.  His perfect world has been shattered and he’s gone from the person everyone wants to be around to the person no one wants to see.

After a romantic-free first hour, the complicated plot takes shape.  The film doesn’t make a lot of sense but we follow it anyway because we hope for a key scene where it will all fit together.  That scene does come but the explanation was unsatisfying.  Over the past year, Memento and The Pledge have been prime examples in showing how to leave the audience hanging (and thinking) with a crafty finale.  I would love to begin a heated discussion as to why the ending of Vanilla Sky is poor but won’t ruin it for those who wish to see it.

Tom Cruise continues to frustrate.  He is too over-passionate and I’m tiring of his sensitive shtick - he’s just milking our emotions.  Penelope Cruz offers little to the film and I continue to endorse my position that she’s typecast as Spanish eye candy in romantic dramas.  This is her fourth film in 2001 (following Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Blow and All The Pretty Horses) and if you just “open your eyes”, you’ll find she’s the same person in all four films.  As the exception, Cameron Diaz did impress with a juicier role that does deserve acclaim.

Cameron Crowe is a great director but the deep material contrasts his style and he hasn’t adapted to suit it.  To confound us, the story is interwoven with fragments from the past and the future but it doesn’t add to the intrigue, it just adds to the confusion.  Vanilla Sky is a film that needs to be seen multiple times to understand.  I’m sure I’d appreciate the film more on a second viewing but after what I saw the first time, I’ve no desire to go back.