Vanilla Sky is told from the
point of view of David Aames, a good looking (hey, he's Tom Cruise!),
millionaire (his father published TV Guide!), playboy (Cameron
Diaz swallowed his cum -- that means something!) who is
not without his dark moments (his parents killed by a drunk driver!).
Instead of a bat flying through his window to give direction to
his life, this Bruce Wayne meets the batty Sofia Serrano, played
by Penelope Cruz, and everything changes.
This is not a film review.
The point of this essay is to trash the movie to explain how it
could have (should have!) been better. So consider that your spoiler
warning, combined with my opinion that this movie isn't really
worth watching in its current form anyway.
Right. So the movie is told
from the point of view of David. So that first part, where he
runs through an empty Times Square, turns out to be a dream. Once
he's really woken up, refreshed from having just fucked his casual
friend Cameron Diaz four times, he starts his day with a tennis
game against buddy Brian Shelby (Jason Lee), and then to the publishing
empire where he has to deal with a disapproving Board of Directors.
Subtext: life is fun -- but it's hard, too.
Then there's the plot they
showed in the trailers. He has a birthday party, but didn't invite
poor Cameron. Brian brings Sofia to the party as his date and
she catches David's eye. And he hers. David shows Sofia his toys,
like his Monet (his mother loved the "Vanilla Sky") and then takes
Sofia home and is amazed by her lack of "guile." The lack of guile
is apparently manifested in her childlike personality -- she's
like a sexy fourteen year old who doesn't speak English all that
well: Is this every man's fantasy? It's David's.
Having spent a chaste night
talking with Sofia, David leaves to find Cameron waiting for him.
She offers him a lift, and possibly more, and he avails himself.
Cameron then goes into a jealous, suicidal rage and smashes the
car into a wall.
Turns out she's killed herself,
and thoroughly disfigured half of David's face, and injuring his
arm. He becomes a recluse, and when he finally decides to go out
again, it's to meet Sofia at a dance club. She brings Brian. After
getting too drunk, David watches his friends leave, and chasing
after them, sees them embrace (she was originally Brian's date,
This part of the story is
told in flashbacks as a psychologist (Kurt Russell) questions
David in a holding cell. Apparently David has been charged with
The rest of the movie goes
back and forth between the present/future and the past and David's
face goes from disfigured to normal and back again. Stranger still,
Cameron Diaz is presented as Julie the crazy "fuck buddy" and
then as Sofia, the imbecile ballet dancer. Which one of them has
a mole on her breast? Does David actually tie her up? cut her
up? smother her? And whom did he kill? And what's going on?
What's going on is that David
is fantasizing. A company called Life Extensions (LE) has developed
a system to cryogenically freeze people. Apparently David signed
up with L.E. for their special Lucid Dream program that allows
his subconscious to create an incoherent flashback ridden movie.
No wait, that's not the intention, but something has gone wrong
with David's program. How can this be? Where did the dream begin?
A helpful L.E. tech support tells David that soon after the debacle
at the night club, he managed to buy out his board of directors
and remake his father's company, but then committed suicide (you
know he's telling the truth because he has an English accent;
no dumb 'spic he).
The tech points out other
elements of the dream: the image of David and Sofia on the street
in New York was a subconscious visual "quote" from a Bob Dylan
album cover, the laughing Sofia is just like that poster of Jules
et Jim in David's apartment, the sky happens to be Vanilla, and
the person he is convicted of killing isÉ himself. Whoa. But what
actually happened after my death?, asks David. Well, the tech
continues, we recovered your body, your buddy Brian held a three
day memorial to you and Sofia came by. She came in long enough
to hear two tracks of music being played simultaneously (David
had suggested this on their first [and only] night together),
smiled and left. Apparently, the tech says, she was as touched
by your encounter as you were.
Finally, given a choice between
rebooting the dream program and waking up, David chooses wakefulness.
A voice calls to him: "Open your eyes!"
That's what we're given.
There are some fine supporting performances by Jason Lee and Cameron
Diaz, and Tom Cruise does all right with a what is basically a
shallow and boring and corrupt character. But the movie falls
far short of its potential.
Cameron Crowe, the writer
and director of this re-make of "Abre los ojos" (Open Your Eyes)
seems to have forgotten that this is a science fiction/psychological
thriller disguised as a romance and not an actual romance. Just
when things could have gotten interesting, he drops the ball.
I have no problem with the
structure and storytelling, but the theme seems to have been lost.
The movie is not about love at first sight. It's not about loving
an ugly man. It's about fantasy and dreaming. And it could have
been a great movie about fantasy and dreaming if Crowe had pushed
it some more.
David is an incredibly shallow
man who gets anything he wants because he's young, rich and good-looking.
And his fantasies are just as good looking -- and just as shallow.
The reference to the Bob Dylan photo was excellent, but there
should have been more. It would have been a dicey proposition
to fill a half hour of screen time with visual quotes if it was
obvious to the audience, but Crowe is smart enough that he could
have done it (and just think what sort of repeat business and
DVD sales he could have racked up for that sequence alone). He
could have found the set of "Cheers" and filmed the bar scene
from an angle never shown on TV -- and then, in the reveal, pulled
back to see the cheesy lack of imagination. Have had Brian, Sofia
and David physically mimic a scene from "Jules et Jim" but given
them different dialogue and a different context. Re-make the magazine
stand scene from "Singles" and made all the magazines flicker
with the problem posed to David at his last day at work: yellow
or white logo? Show the mole on the breast of a Playboy pin-up
David found when he was thirteen.
At the risk of seeming too
insularly pop culture, this sequence could have been the cinematic
equivalent of Picasso channeling Goya and Braque and Leger and
Velasquez. And if done well, it would have kicked Gus Van Sant's
"Psycho" in the ass.
The reveal sequence would
have been more surprising, more disconcerting and more subversive
than "The Sixth Sense." The audience would be forced to consider:
how did I miss that! and, no wonder it looked so familiar! and
(worst of all) would my "lucid dream" consist of images
I've seen on television? Do I have the capacity to invent an architectural
form? Do my sexual fantasies consist of wanting to star in someone
else's pornographic stories? The impact would be simultaneously
tragic and comical -- and provocative. Perhaps our visions are
limited and we need to read more, see more movies, open our
eyes to other people's imaginations in order to expand our
The other important change
would have to be ruining Sofia. Cameron Diaz is gorgeous and sexy
and available and David doesn't want her because he knows her
too well. Sofia is the opposite, an unknown that David is free
to project his fantasies and desires onto. As a ballet dancer,
though, there's a good chance that she's actually bulimic and
promiscuous. And as much as director Crowe tries to sell her to
us as perfect (it is David's point of view, after all), there's
little reciprocal good will towards David. We're expected to like
him because he's Tom Cruise. Unfortunately, we don't. It would
have been great if there were more scenes of Sofia with David's
He thinks everything
is his for the taking!
But not you?
Love is not something
that you take, it is something that you give.
They kiss passionately.
Then at the memorial service,
the strange music is playing -- only David and Sofia knew about
this, did he specify this in his funeral arrangements? The thought
of his desperate fixation is so pathetic it makes Sofia cry. Shaking
her head -- what did he think we meant after only a few hours
together? Brian nods in understanding -- my buddy David invested
a lot of his fantasy life on those few hours.
Open your eyes, Mr. Crowe.
This is not a love story, it's a story of infatuation. The infatuation
that allowed Cameron Diaz's character to imagine a relationship
and then destroy it. The infatuation that gave David a reason
to re-enter public life with an imperfect face. It's a story about
our love of fantasy and the limits of that fantasy in bringing