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Dan Heller's Movie Review of "Vanilla Sky"


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Tom Cruise
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Vanilla Sky, directed by Cameron Crowe, is an adaptation of Alejandro Amenábar's narcissist's nightmare Abre los Ojos (1997). This version, updated for 2001, is like a cross between The Matrix, Total Recall, and Fatal Attraction, only this production takes the worst-common-denominator of the three. That they were good films with creative ideas and vivid characters is what keeps Vanilla Sky above water, but won't likely be appreciated by a more sophisticated audience.

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Tom Cruz and Penélope Cruz
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The film stars Tom Cruise as David Ames, the heir to a mega-publishing empire, who wines and dines women, throws lavish parties and controls the fates of many people's careers. One day, he meets a dancer named Sophia, played by Penélope Cruz, who captures his heart with her charm and delightful approach to life. Smitten with passion, he is motivated to rectify his past luxury lifestyle and start anew as a responsible adult. As he leaves Sophia's apartment one morning, one of David's other sex partners, Julie (Cameron Diaz), is waiting for him outside. She coaxes him into her car, where she reveals her true love for him and snaps into a state of manic depression, rage, jealousy and erratic driving. "What really makes you happy, David?", she asks before she drives off a bridge in Central Park, killing herself, and disfiguring David's face in the crash. He doesn't have time to consider an answer, but the disfigurement of his face takes upon new proportions as he (and the film) diverge into a surreal journey into themes and visions where reality and fantasy are indistinguishable. In his search for what's real, the movie spends the bulk of its time dragging the audience along with him from one dead-end to another, until the final scene where it all comes together.

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Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz
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While the ending does bring together all the unlinked and confusing elements, much like The Matrix did, Vanilla Sky wants to be much more than a simple action-thriller. A love triangle, a deeper and more meaningful introspection on the "self" and its various psychological components, a philosophical bent... A lot could be done with this mixture of science fiction and psychological drama, but the movie ultimately fails to accomplish its own goals. If it's going to be about an ego-centric publishing heir who turns a new leaf, give us more of a basis for his motivations. Sophia's character wasn't strong enough for us to believe that she, alone, compelled him, especially since they knew each other only a day when his tragedy befell him. While Cameron Diaz did an excellent job at a femme fatale, her relationship to David was too unimportant to him to make the "love triangle" germane to the plot. It was hard to feel empathy for him. (Fear, yes, but that's two-dimensional; not the depth that the film could and should have achieved.)

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To its credit, the film does succeed in providing a beautifully filmed series of scenes, with good-looking people and a climax that does pull together the loose ends and give the audience a sense of completion. To a less-discerning, younger-generation of movie-goers, this may be worth the price of admission. However, for me, the movie failed to meet its own potential, eroding my opinion of it to a tepid yawner.

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Penélope Cruz
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Cameron Diaz
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