If, with this new collaboration between director Cameron Crowe and star Tom Cruise you were expecting Jerry Maguire 2, you are going to be in for a shock. This film, a remake ofa 1997 Spanish film entitled Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes), is hypnotic, challenging and nearly impossible to shake off.
David Aames (Cruise) leads what appears to be a charmed life: he’s handsome,wealthy and charismatic. He is also a vain womanizer who could care less aboutanyone but himself. David likes to keep his life and the people in it contained,controlled and at a distance.
The person to challenge David’s self-centered, self-contained world is SofiaSerrano (Penelope Cruz). Sofia comes to David’s 33rd birthday party as a datewith Brian (Jason Lee), David’s best friend. Aames, who figures Sofia to be hisnext sexual conquest (despite Brian’s obvious interest in her), begins to makehis move on her only to find out that there is something different about her. Hespends the night with her, but not in the way that he is accustomed to(translation: no sex). Sofia has managed to cut through David’s rarefied worldof sycophants and opportunists to get to his heart. He leaves her apartment withthe feeling that he may have found the girl of his dreams. Unfortunately forDavid, Julianna Gianni (Cameron Diaz), his last conquest who refuses to letthings go, is stalking David and has followed him to Sofia’s apartment. Despitethe events of the night before, David gives into temptation and winds up gettinginto the car with Julianna to go to her apartment.
Big mistake, Dave.
What goes on from here is best seen with your own eyes and not described in areview (if anyone tries to tell you what happens in the film, punch them). Thereare a lot of twists and turns in Vanilla Sky and it is very easy to lose yourway if you don’t pay close attention. Yet, it all makes perfect sense in theend. A dark, intense erotic thriller may be new territory for the man knownmostly for smart, sunny comedies like Almost Famous and Say Anything. HoweverSky writer/director Cameron Crowe shows that he can handle other genres withequal aplomb. His script, an adaptation of the 1997 original (written byAlejandro Amenabar of The Others fame), is filled with dialogue that is fresh,involving and at times very poignant. It also has some very intriguing, if notentirely likeable, characters that make the multiple twists and turnscaptivating. A lot of times, when a filmmaker attempts to go into a differentdirection, the results are not pretty. They leave behind all of their strongpoints and fall on their creative face (The Color Purple, anyone?). Thankfully,Crowe has not.
Tom Cruise’s performance is one of his best to date, ranking right up therewith his work in Magnolia and Born On The Fourth Of July. David is a complexcharacter whose long, strange journey to discovering his soul and possiblyfinding true love would not have worked half as well if someone else was in thelead. Cruise perfectly captures not only David’s vain arrogance, but also theheartbreak and struggle of a man who has to start anew. This is definitely anaward-nomination worthy performance.
For once in her short American film career, Penelope Cruz is given a rolethat shows off both the acting talent and considerable charm she displayed insuch foreign films as All About My Mother. She and Cruise do display a wonderfulonscreen chemistry together. Diaz, Lee and Kurt Russell, as a psychiatrist Daviddeals with, all offer solid supporting performances as well.
Crowe’s masterful use of music is also proudly on display here. From thedreamy Raidohead tune Everything In Its Right Place to the Paul McCartney titletune, this collection, which also includes U2, Jeff Buckley and Sigur Ros, is astunner. A hearty round of applause should also go to Joe Hutshing’s editing,John Toll’s lush cinematography and Digital Domain for their subtle buteffective visual effects work.
Vanilla Sky is not your usual erotic thriller nor is it your usualbig-budgeted, star-laden Hollywood holiday offering. It takes chances and, inasking its audience to go along for the ride, requires us to do so as well. In aseason where a creatively straightjacketed adaptation of Harry Potter isconsidered the Second Coming of Cinema, it is nice to know that there are somepeople in Hollywood who are still willing to go out on a limb and try somethingdifferent, even if it has been filmed previously in another country. Crowe andCruise could have taken the easy way out for their second collaboration butinstead chose to make this. For that, I am very grateful.