Vanilla Sky

Vanilla Sky (2001)
★★★★ / ★★★★

David Aames (Tom Cruise) seemed to have it all: he was rich, he could have any woman he wanted, he could be great at his job if he wanted to, and a very good friend, Brian (Jason Lee), was only a phone call away. But what David didn’t have was romantic stability. David and Julie (Cameron Diaz) would hook up and the two share great sex. However, Sofia (Penélope Cruz), Brian’s date, caught David’s eye during a party at his fancy loft. Suddenly, his affection was torn between the two women. Julie did not like it one bit. Based on Alejandro Amenábar’s film “Abre los ojos,” Cameron Crowe’s “Vanilla Sky” deceptively started off like a romance picture but it evolved into a mystery and changed once again into a curiosity. What I loved most about it was its audacity to dream big. Its tone and storytelling techniques always changed; the events felt like fragments of memories and they didn’t seem to fit. A question gave birth to other questions in an exponential rate. We were offered possible explanations but we had a choice not to accept them. I didn’t know what was going on some of the time but I found myself fascinated with what the movie was attempting to say. It was like sitting in front of someone who had been almost completely paralyzed and it tried to communicate with nothing but its eyes. I’ve seen Cruise embody plenty of roles but I believe David was one of his best. Two scenes stood out to me and they reminded me why was he was a movie star. David’s face had been horribly disfigured. He had a meeting with doctors and he expected that they had solutions to fix his face. After all, money was no issue because he commanded an empire. Unfortunately, the doctors had nothing but roundabout ways of saying there wasn’t anything they could do. In that scene, the way Cruise controlled his character from quietly hopeful to a monster full of rage stripped me of my defenses. I probably would have reacted the same way. David claimed it wasn’t about vanity. We should all know it was exactly about vanity but there was something more to it. Reclaiming his face was an act of getting his power back. Another strong scene was when David finally decided to show his scarred face to Sofia after months of hiding in his apartment. Cruise made David extremely vulnerable. He was ashamed of his ugliness and he felt even uglier because Sofia was so beautiful. David must have felt like he wasn’t worthy of being considered a person. It was like watching an exiled king, now a leper, begging to admitted back to his kingdom. Notice that I’m highlighting the emotions because I believe “Vanilla Sky” was, first and foremost, an emotional journey. The last thirty minutes asked us to take a giant leap of faith. Without being emotionally invested, we wouldn’t take that leap. I believe the reason why the film polarized audiences was because half didn’t feel emotionally connected to David. For those that did, half probably felt like they were constantly getting tricked by the push and pull forces of real and fantasy. In other words, they felt cheated. But I consider “Vanilla Sky” a wonderful entertainment because I felt like a homicide detective. In most homicide cases, not all the pieces fit exactly as we expect them to, despite what TV shows led us to believe, but those pieces that do are enough to provide a clear picture.

4 replies »

  1. havent seen this for a long time, i dont recall it being a great movie, but your review has led me to think to revisit it and perhaps recast my critical eye. Good review.

    • It’s definitely worth watching again. I’m curious to see how much I’d like it in my third or fourth viewing when the focus is detached from the surprises and more about the cohesion.

    • I must admit, I was reluctant to watch it because people who hated it REALLY hated it. But I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve been looking to add this to my DVD collection. I’d love to read your review of the movie.

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