Vanilla Sky DVD review

Film / Video Reviews
Vanilla Sky DVD review
May 21, 2002, 22:15

VANILLA SKY directed by Cameron Crowe; Paramount Pictures, 2001

The introduction for the DVD of Vanilla Sky refers to the Cameron Crowe's film as, “A story, a puzzle, a nightmare, a lucid dream, a psychedelic pop song, a movie to argue over.” More telling are the reactions of the film crew when asked for their interpretations of the film. “Confusing,” says one. “I don't know,” says another. “What does it mean?” asks a third. Then comes Crowe with his own interpretation: A man “cramming for the final exam of life.”

Maybe they're all right; I don't know. Nor do I really care. And that's the main problem with Vanilla Sky. Crowe's story of a man in search of his memory and hence his life seems so bent on layering dreams upon realities upon questions upon dreams that it requires an all-too laborious explanation at the end to make sense of it all.

The film chronicles the highs and lows of David Aames (Tom Cruise), a publishing magnate who inherited an empire his father built. No surprise: Cruise is credible as the vapid dilettante. What is surprising is that he ditches a seemingly perfect match, his steamy-hot sex pal Julie (Cameron Diaz), for the deep-thinking Sofia (Penelope Cruz). Well, surprise, surprise. That horny li'l ho' won't let her man go. She even tries what amounts to double suicide when she drives her car, with him in it, off a bridge at 80 mph. A dozen or so plastic surgeries later, the once glamorous playboy is still a mess. And that's when reality becomes a nightmare becomes a dream becomes an illusion becomes insanity becomes whatever other substance you want to put in the Mason jar.

By the second half of Vanilla Sky, the Mason jar becomes defined solely by the color of the substance it takes on. In other words, Vanilla Sky meanders and morphs from realm to realm—without any framework to call its own. By itself, that wouldn't be so bad—that is, if it weren't for the explanation at the end. It's all encompassing: It says how Cruise (and Crowe) got from there to here. But it doesn't say why.

After two viewings, I was still asking myself questions of substance, not interpretation. And all too often, the answers were nothing more than a hole in the story. Maybe Crowe wanted to venture into a new world. Unfortunately, he took his old conventions with him. And Vanilla Sky seems caught in the middle. Even with the bonus footage, interviews with Crowe, Cruise and soundtrack composer Nancy Wilson, the DVD fails to fill in the gaps.

-John Petkovic

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