"Vanilla Sky" is a remake of the 1997 Spanish movie "Abre los Ojos (Open Your Eyes)" which is a mystery-thriller that also has a moral message about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. The movie is set in Manhattan where David Aames (Tom Cruise) is living the quintessential Playboy existence; a man of leisure, dating beautiful women, driving fabulous cars, and an apartment that looks like something out of The Sharper Image catalog. Aames is quite wealthy and occasionally shows up to run the publishing company that he inherited from the untimely death of his parents. He has many acquaintances but in his main clique are his best friend and soon-to-be published author Brian (Jason Lee) and occasional sexual partner Julie Gianni (Cameron Diaz). Although Julie is very desirable and considered to be a dream girl, David is not ready to settle down, least of all with her. He is warned by Brian that one day he will find a love that will change his entire life. This turns out to be quite an understatement.
Enter Sophia (Penelope Cruz, reprising her role from the original film), who attends a party with Brian and catches David's eye, and his heart. David invited all of his friends to celebrate his birthday, everyone except Julie, who crashes to give David a special birthday present. Julie spends the evening green-eyedly watching David and Sophia interact. The two escape to David's "other" apartment where they sit and talk. Later David takes Sophia home where he spends the night, talking....no really, just talking. David realizes he's found the love he was warned about and couldn't be happier. As he leaves Sophia's place, he encounters Julie, who admits to following him, but was only doing so that she could apologize for showing up uninvited the previous evening. David is reluctant, but decides (with the wrong head) to accept her offer to "make it up to him" in what he believes will be a romp. During the ride (in the car), Julie begins to declare feelings of love for and betrayal by David but her rant comes to a climax as she careens off an overpass killing herself, and leaving David horridly disfigured.
Now, here is what you don't get from the TV trailers, and this is where the thriller part of the movie begins and this is where the narrative review must essentially end. The line between reality and fantasy are blurred as David, not to mention the audience has trouble sometimes distinguishing what is real, and what is not. This gets confusing but is crucial for the surprise ending. The use of misdirection, flashback, and out of sequence "splicing" keeps you guessing until the last minute. In fact, I recommend seeing the movie twice to pick up on things you may have (and you will have) missed from your first viewing, and before forming a complete opinion. Although Cameron Crowe isn't as effective and deliberate as M. Night Shyalaman from "The Sixth Sense", this film definitely stands out in a class by itself.
The film did have a few shortcomings. Besides being occasionally languid at times, the film confirms that Tom Cruise can't effectively portray a convincing role outside of the typecast of cocky-pretty boy-who-matures-in-the-middle-of-the-film-to-save-the-day. I personally think that both Cruise, and this type-cast are getting too old and the illusion is starting to wear thin. Cameron Diaz did an impressive job as the furious woman scorned, sadly she was underemployed, but her role, I assume dictated her abbreviated appearance. Diaz is able actress and should delve into roles that don't limit her; the bubble-headed blonde beauty is not a testament to her talents. Penelope Cruz, bringing her experience from the first film acted the part of Sophia with ease. Her beauty and charm were overshadowed at times by her thick and sometimes jumbled accent. On a redeeming note however, the foreign intonation added an exotic quality to her character, thus enhancing her value.
This is a film worth seeing. Although billed as an erotic thriller, it belongs more in the suspense/mystery thriller category. Regardless of classification, the movie keeps you in speculation long after the closing credits and for several hours after. "Vanilla Sky" also called to mind "Memento", but I won't make comparisons of the two. See this movie at least once, preferably twice.
Billz Movie Worthiness Scale: A
Billz Movie Worthiness Scale Values:
A = movie tickets and popcorn for 2 (about $40)
B = buy the DVD when it comes out ($25)
C = rent it
D = wait for it to be on cable/pay TV
E = wait for it to be on regular TV
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