Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz, Kurt Russell, Cameron Diaz, Jason Lee, Noah
Taylor, Tilda Swinton, Timothy Spall
2001, 135 Minutes, Directed by: Cameron Crowe
This film follows David Aames (Cruise) as he falls from his graceful
Manhattan perch of inordinate wealth, good looks, and newfound love with
Sofia (Cruz) because of severe facial disfigurement in a car accident caused
by a suicidal ex-lover (Diaz). What at first promises to be a conventional
allegory of redemption via true love is turned on its head as Cruise's
character, reduced to wearing a latex mask and spurned by his friends, wins
back his princess only after a miracle of plastic surgery restores his
former beauty. A series of plot twists follows as waking life, technological
advances, and nightmares flip-flop to dizzying effect.
Judging from this movie’s
marketing you’d be wondering whether a review of Vanilla Sky actually belongs here on
The Sci-Fi Movie Page. Yes, it does, largely because of one time-honored
sci-fi device, which I unfortunately cannot reveal without breaking the
Number One Commandment of Movie Reviewing, namely: “Thou shalt not divulge
plot twists or endings in thy reviews.”
However, like the recent M.
Night movie Signs, it is extremely difficult to
discuss Vanilla Sky without discussing its “surprise” ending. I will however
have the following to say about this “plot twist” without spoiling it: one
deduces quite early on what it will be, largely thanks to the Law of
Screenplay Economics, which requires that your movie shall not have any
details that are superfluous to the plot. This simply means that there are
seldom any unnecessary details in a movie. If you are shown something that
seems insignificant or redundant early on in a movie, that scene is
practically a signpost for plot points later on. Bad cell phone reception in
a certain area where the characters usually drive (What Lies Beneath)?
Later on, you’ll know it’ll be important.
"It just makes things easier to believe that good-looking rich folks
are just as miserable and unhappy as the rest of us!"
The same goes for
Vanilla Sky. Early on I had figured out the general gist of the
“surprise” ending, and hoped I was wrong: as far as “surprise endings” go
this one didn’t come as a particular surprise (I’m not one of those people
who claim to have figured out the ending of Sixth Sense long before
the ending) and was rather redundant. To a degree the movie could have
worked without it.
maybe not. Once stripped of its dull “surprise ending” there isn’t much in
Vanilla Sky to recommend itself. Tom Cruise plays a vapid and shallow
young multi-millionaire (he inherited his fortune), blessed with annoyingly
good looks who sleeps with supermodels and drives a Porsche. Yeah, now
there’s a character your ordinary cinemagoer can identify with, eh? To make
things worse the Cruise character is self-centered and bland, and remains so
throughout the entire movie
even after his face is disfigured in a car accident and walks around with
one of Michael Meyer’s (the Halloween movies killer) masks for a huge
chunk of the movie.
Cruise’s character come to some sort of insight because of his predicament?
Does he become more likeable? No on both counts, I’m afraid. Yet the movie
expects us to be sympathetic towards him for some reason, all the while one
can’t believe that his friends put up with so much of his crap
even when they don’t have to anymore. Cruise’s love interest in the guise of
Penelope Cruz isn’t much more believable either and while there are some
neat performances in the supporting roles, the battle is lost once one
really doesn’t care for the leads.
A remake of a Spanish movie
(Alejandro Amenábar's 1997 romantic thriller Open Your Eyes), it is unclear what exactly attracted director Cameron Crowe
(Jerry Maguire) to this material. Crowe is better at more light-weight fare
that taps into the pop cultural zeitgeist than with something like this
which has more portentous themes. Instead Crowe directs the movie like one
long music video, inserting various pop songs (by the likes of R.E.M. and
Bob Dylan) into the action where they only attract attention to themselves
rather than add to the ambience.
Ultimately Vanilla Sky is like its lead actors: pleasant to look at, but
shallow and uninvolving
a psychological drama without any interesting
insights other than maybe that good looks and money do equal happiness (as
one critic pointed out), which makes it the ideological opposite of the
classic Seconds . . .
Rather give me my
Seconds then . . . because it just makes things easier to believe that
good-looking rich folks are just as miserable and unhappy as the rest of us.