At the Movies: 'Vanilla Sky'
By Christy Lemire
AP Entertainment Writer
|"Vanilla Sky," a Paramount Pictures release, is rated R for sexuality and strong language. Running time: 136 minutes.|
In fact, the music is so perfectly chosen and plays such a huge role as it does in all of Cameron Crowe's movies that it's as if the former rock music writer burned a CD of his favorite tunes, then found a movie to remake to go along with it.
The presence of songs by Paul McCartney and Peter Gabriel, Jeff Buckley and Todd Rundgren, R.E.M. and Radiohead is one of the few personal stamps that writer-director Crowe placed on his adaptation of Alejandro Amenabar's thriller "Open Your Eyes." It's disappointing that Crowe didn't do more to make the movie his own, because his own movies namely "Jerry Maguire" and "Almost Famous" are almost flawless.
"Vanilla Sky" is just as maddening as the original, forcing us along with the main character to wonder what's a dream and what's reality, who's alive and who's dead.
All that confusion would be fine if there were a payoff. But the ending is such an unoriginal, sci-fi cop-out, it's the most frustrating part of all.
Crowe excels, though, at drawing touchingly human portrayals from his actors, and "Vanilla Sky" is no exception. Tom Cruise gives one of his best performances, and Penelope Cruz does her best English-language work in the same role she played in Amenabar's original.
Cruise is back in familiar territory here as David Aames, a rich, swaggering playboy who runs the magazine publishing empire he inherited from his father. All sparkle and no soul, he clearly needs to be taken down a notch or 12.
Women flock to him but he refuses to be faithful to any of them certainly not Julie (Cameron Diaz), a friend and frequent bed buddy. All of that changes at his birthday party, where he meets Sofia (Cruz), who's there as the date of his best friend, Brian (Jason Lee).
When Julie crashes the party and stalks him, David keeps her at bay by chatting and flirting with Sofia, and is instantly hooked. He goes back to Sofia's apartment and spends a magical though chaste night with her.
As he's leaving the next morning, he finds Julie waiting for him outside, offering to drive him home and hop into bed with him. But in a jealous rage, she tells him she loves him, scolds him for using her for casual sex and plunges the car off a bridge in Central Park.
This is where things get tricky. David may have survived but suffered irreparable facial damage. Julie may or may not have died in the crash. And Sofia may not exist at all she may just be an imagined version of his ideal woman.
David tries to sort it all out in flashbacks with a psychiatrist (Kurt Russell) while sitting in the mental ward of a prison, where he's being held on suspicion of murder. He wears an eerie mask to hide the scars that ruined his perfect face and that enormous, blinding smile.
Despite his movie-star status, Cruise doesn't take the easy way out: He allows himself to look hideously misshapen after the car crash. But the transformation in his character is even more powerful. David swings from depression to animalistic rage and back again, and his torment is the centerpiece of the movie.
Performances from the supporting players are equally strong, notably from Lee as David's insecure, lovelorn best friend he laments, "You're rich and women love you. I'm from Ohio and I'm drunk" and from Diaz, who shows a depth and a pain we've not seen before.
There's also some beautifully striking visual imagery, notably the opening sequence in which David runs frantically through an abandoned Times Square, and a scene in a dance club in which he wears his mask on the back of his head, making it appear that he has two faces.
And David's apartment, which appears to take up an entire floor of the Dakota building, is a marvel of interior design pop culture iconography and stunning art work sit alongside breathtaking Central Park views.