FILM REVIEW :
I have watched many interviews with Tom Cruise recently promoting his long awaited second collaboration with Cameron Crowe titled "Vanilla Sky". In the interviews Tom describes the film as a "Modern-day love story" & "A pop-culture thrill-ride". With all the publicity "Vanilla Sky" received, I felt I had to check it out. In fact, after watching the trailer & seeing clips of the film on various talk shows I believed it would very good. It certainly looked entertaining. It featured the real-life romance of Cruise & Cruz, adds Cameron Diaz & Kurt Russell into the mix & helmed by Cameron Crowe, I expected something thrilling & maybe even intellectually stimulating.
Unfortunately, what I got in return was none of the above. "Vanilla Sky" is one of the poorest, big-budget, mainstream films, to be released in cinemas in 2001. Why you ask? Well, simply nothing in the film seems to work or gel. The plot is truly preposterous, basically a vain man's nightmare in today's environment of casual sex & big business. In the early stages of the film Cruise is basically Cruise in this one. He smirks & smugs his way on screen, hoping that his devilish charm is all he needs to make the film work, but the script he was given stinks. It is not romantic or intelligent. Cameron Diaz is possibly the only one that comes out of the film unscathed. She plays her role of seductress Julie Gianni quite well, even if she is given some of the films most explicit dialogue. On the other hand, Penelope Cruz is truly not given much to do. There is virtually little or no chemistry between her & Cruise on screen, so it is hard to believe that there is some off-screen. Kurt Russell does his best as the psychiatrist, but even this can't save the poor plot & weak script.
The trailer for "Vanilla Sky" is deceiving; it makes the film look like a gripping thriller, which it is not. When Cameron Diaz kills her self the plot is supposed to kick in, but it doesn't, in fact, this is where the film begins to die. From this point onwards the audience is subjected to Tom Cruise stomping around with a disfigured face & bad temper. Even "Vanilla Sky's" ludicrous cryogenic ending looks like something out of the Arnold Schwarzenegger film "Total Recall".
The real-life romance of Tom & Penelope generated a lot of interest in "Vanilla Sky", but the popularity of the film was short lived after it received a drubbing from many film critics around the world. The talented cast of Cruise, Diaz, Cruz & Russell were wasted on a poorly executed mess. If the four players had of been cast in a well-written thriller of Hitchcockian style they would have fared much better. Michael Douglas' sexually charged psychological thrillers have all worked better. Why? They had tighter/simpler & more conclusive storylines. "Vanilla Sky's" plot is a complex mess. The theme running through the film is the consequences of casual sex in today's ever-changing society. Apart from sex, other themes that Crowe has attempted to explore include, dreams, nightmares, friendship & cryogenics. It even seems that Cruise's religion of choice Scientology, may even be touched upon.
I have been watching Tom Cruise's films in the cinemas for many years, whenever he makes a new film I always go. But truly, Tom disappoints with this. His fans don't really want to see him play a complex man with disturbingly nightmarish visions. Seeing Tom stomp around for half the film with either a disfigured face or his face covered in a mask does not make it an entertaining night at the cinema, actually a rather painful night at the cinema. Sure it might be an acting challenge for Tom but it is a bore for the audience. Fans expect to see the boyishly handsome leading man do what he does best, smile, look pretty & act charming & that is not wear a stupid Halloween face mask.
I am usually a big fan of Cameron Crowe's work. He wrote a quality screenplay for the 1982 Amy Heckerling directed teen classic "Fast Times At Ridgemont High". He wrote & directed the fine romantic teen comedy "Say Anything" in 1989, starring John Cusack. in possibly his most remembered role as the charming Lloyd Dobbler. In 1996 Cameron Crowe hit the big-time when he wrote & directed the Tom Cruise classic "Jerry Maguire", which was nominated for numerous Academy Awards. Then "Almost Famous" was another critically acclaimed Cameron Crowe success story. He has set a high standard for himself & now with "Vanilla Sky" he has directed a film that is definitely below par.
At the moment I am yet to see the original Spanish version of the film "Open Your Eyes" (1997), but I believe it would be much better, even with the subtitles. I find it hard to believe that someone of Cameron's immense talent would waste two years of his life remaking somebody else's work. He is already too good a writer & filmmaker of his own material. As much as "Vanilla Sky" disappoints I still look forward to seeing Crowe's next work, if it is one of his own originals, it is sure to be better.
On the plus side "Vanilla Sky" is visually well done. In the films opening scene we are treated to an invigorating dream sequence where we see New York's normally bustling "Times Square" completely devoid of pedestrians & motor vehicles. The sequence is wonderfully shot & captivating. Cameron Crowe fills the film with a mish-mash of Rock n Roll songs, from originals written by his wife to old favourites like The Beach Boys', "Good Vibrations". Viewers should look out for director Steven Spielberg's cameo in the party sequence, he's the guest that calls Tom Cruise a "son of a bitch".
To be honest, I so much wanted "Vanilla Sky" to be a pleasant cinematic experience but I was unfortunately let down on all levels, acting, directing, plot & script. If you want to see an excellent collaboration between director Cameron Crowe & Tom Cruise you would be much better off hiring the romantic comedy /sports drama "Jerry Maguire". It has a well-written script, top-notch acting & its heart is in the right place, elements that "Vanilla Sky" could only dream of.