Recently, while helping a sick friend, I had the opportunity to re-watch this movie after nearly ten years, which led me to re-read this review. I definitely think Vanilla Sky is worth re-watching — and that this review is worth re-publishing.
Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky should be called Vanilla Movie — and I LIKE vanilla. It achieves a near impossible feat. Although it is a product of Hollywood and is set in New York City, the only non-whites in the movie are extras! I think that one Negro utters a line. He is a doorman. In virtually every other film, the character of the psychologist would have been cast as a Negro. After all, the character is an educated, intelligent, sensitive man. These are all the qualities that we must be convinced are present in Negroes — because they are so rarely present in Negroes. Instead, Kurt Russell plays the part.
What’s more, the film is utterly devoid of anti-White, anti-Western propaganda. Aside from one Jewish-looking character, there is nothing identifiably Jewish about this film, either, which is based upon a Spanish film, Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes) written by Alejandro Amenabar and Mateo Gil. Even the psychologist is not a Freudian, but a follower of the Aryan Jung, judging from one of the props, a copy of Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections.
And to top it all off, it is a good movie — a serious, thoughtful movie — beautifully directed, well-written, well-cast, and well-acted.
Plain Vanilla for me!
Vanilla Sky is not without its flaws. The major flaw is a sudden change of genre in the last fifteen minutes, not unlike the psychological turn for the worse near the end of Fight Club. This change of course is combined with a deus ex machina almost as blatant as at the end of The Abyss.
Vanilla Sky begins as a very suspenseful, very enjoyable psychological thriller. Tom Cruise starts out playing himself: rich, phony, vain, and self-absorbed. This Tom, however, is a magazine publisher and a casual seducer of women. He is named David Aames. Within five minutes, I found myself thinking: “I hope something very bad happens to this guy.”
Something very bad does indeed happen. Something worse than I expected. Frankly, I was stunned. But it gets worse and worse. Treachery looms at every turn. Who has been murdered? Is David guilty or was he framed? Was it his company plotting against him? Was it his friend Brian Shelby, played by Jason Lee, a Jewish-looking writer who resents David’s wealth and the fact that he stole his girlfriend? Is it the ex-girlfriend, Julie Gianni, played by Cameron Diaz? Is he awake or dreaming? Is he sane or insane? The suspense became unbearable.
Just when I found myself wondering, “How are they going to wrap this plot up in a satisfactory way?” they wrapped it up in a less-than-satisfactory way. The last few minutes of the movie are science fiction. There is way too much narration. Instead of showing the story, it tells the story. What story? The Matrix is the story: The hero is offered the choice of real life or fantasy. He is reminded that each passing moment is potentially a moment of decision, an opportunity to turn one’s life around. He chooses, and the movie ends. With a very good thriller well in hand, they reach for science fiction with a serious existential-moral theme — and drop the whole thing.
Oddly enough, though, I was not terribly disappointed. Serious movies are so rare these days that a near-miss is still welcome. Futhermore, Vanilla Sky has so many other good elements that it is pleasurable trying to figure out how the ending could have been improved.
The NC 17 rating is based on some dirty talk and the fact that Tom Cruise simulates intercourse with two exquisitely beautiful women, Penelope Cruz and Cameron Diaz.
I usually find Tom Cruise very annoying, but I think this is his best movie. Cameron Diaz is spectacular. She deserves a Best Supporting Actress nomination. The rest of the cast is also quite good. Tom Cruise’s contract must specify that no men better looking than himself be cast, but there are some very beautiful women in minor roles and decorating the very beautiful sets. I love the whole “look” of this movie.
The bottom line: After you see The Lord of the Rings three or four times, try Vanilla Sky.
VNN, December 2001
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