Vanilla Sky

A couple years ago, a small Spanish movie entitled Open Your Eyes opened and, like most foreign movies, closed quickly in American theaters. It attracted a cult following with its reality-bending story and gave American audiences another tantalizing glimpse of then American unknown Penelope Cruz (who reprises her role here). Some of the fans of Open Your Eyes included Tom Cruise and frequent producing partner Paula Wagner. They did a couple things. First, they gave director Alejandro Amenabar the opportunity to make his first American movie, The Others, which starred Cruise's then wife, Nicole Kidman. Second, Cruise and Wagner enlisted Cameron Crowe to remake (or as he calls it, "cover") the movie, with the result being Vanilla Sky.

Crowe (Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire) frequently infuses his scripts with warmth and emotion, as well as his love for rock and roll. Here, it contrasts oddly with the dark source material. The only character with real emotion is Sofia Serrano (Cruz, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Blow). She is the perfect woman, beautiful, warm, energetic, and sweet. Everybody else is cold, calculating, ruthless, ambitious, or some combination of these qualities. David Aames (Cruise, Mission Impossible II, Magnolia) falls for her instantly, although she's the date of his best friend Brian Shelby (Jason Lee, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Heartbreakers). Aames is a spoiled rich publishing executive who inherited his empire. He is battling for control of his company with the board of directors, whom he dubs 'the seven dwarves.' He also has a casual sexual relationship with Julie Gianni (Cameron Diaz, Shrek, The Invisible Circus).

Much of the plot best remains unsaid, as not to spoil any of the many twists. Needless to say, things become complicated for Aames when he falls for Sofia and Julie finds out. Things quickly escalate out of control, which is when Crowe goes into overdrive. Vanilla Sky jumps between the future and the present, leaving the viewer in a lurch. No one is sure what is happening when Dr. Curtis McCabe (Kurt Russell, 3000 Miles to Graceland, Soldier) is interviewing Aames, who is wearing a mask, about why he murdered her. Who is her? Apparently either Sofia or Julie. Aames believes that the seven dwarves are behind some plot to unseat him from his position.

None of the actors are too compelling to watch. Cruise gives an empty performance, all swagger and bombast with nothing underneath. Diaz, Cruz, and Russell have all done better. On its own, Vanilla Sky becomes confusing by not elucidating some of the more pertinent points in the story. Things make sense in the end, but not as much as they probably should. Comparisons to the original are inevitable. Crowe actually uses many of the same shots and similar dialogue, but what is sometimes more interesting is what he left out. He omits parts that help clarify things and make the story tighter. He also replaces the original's eerie creepiness with more mundane sense of wait-and-see. Instead of a strange sense of dizzying confusion and an expectation to see where the story is going, Crowe leaves the viewer with frustration (or crow?). The story is still fascinating, but in the end, it is just coasting on the laurels of its predecessor.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
2 hours, 25 minutes, Rated R for sexuality and strong language.

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