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VANILLA SKY

"Every Passing Minute is Another Chance to Turn it All Around"
Directed by Cameron Crowe - Written by Cameron Crowe, Alejandro Amenabar
Starring Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz
Distributed by X - Year - Xmins - Rated R

TC Candler's Review

A

It is the little things that matter...

Unlike Mulholland Drive, another film from this stellar year, Vanilla Sky's descent into delirious madness seems controlled and directed in order for the audience to arrive at a specific answer. Both films are fantastic in the way they lose the viewer to speculation and deep thought about the intricacies of the plot.

However, Mulholland Drive, even though a very successful film, seems destination-less and for that matter answerless. Vanilla Sky appears to answer all the questions that are posed in its first 120 minutes in the final act. But appearances are not what they seem. This film will leave you pondering its message, and for that matter its questions for hours, maybe days after the viewing.

I think the best way to differentiate the feeling of watching both films is this... Mulholland Drive leaves no answers, Vanilla Sky leaves many, all varied and probably all correct.

We fall into the seemingly idyllic world of David Aames (Cruise), who runs the publishing empire left to him by his father. His wealth, his toys and his love life all rival that of our playboy dreams. He has everything... except an appreciation of true love. His best friend (Lee) repeatedly asks the question... "How can you taste the sweet without ever tasting the sour?" Julie, his "fuck buddy", as she is called by his friend, is played supremely well by Cameron Diaz. They enjoy each other's company very often... sometimes four times in one night. But, perhaps unbeknownst to David, she is developing feelings for him, feelings he doesn't share. During a party at David's apartment, he is introduced to Sofia Serrano (Cruz) a dazzling young thing that he falls for instantly. They flirt, they connect, they decide to go to her apartment. David resists his normal urges, probably because this is the first time he actually cares about the girl he's with. She is a sensible, down to earth sort and he calls her the "last guileless girl in New York." He spends the platonic night in her apartment and leaves the next morning only to find, waiting outside, a denial consumed Julie is stalking him.

The resulting car ride, as is evident in the preview, ends with a stunning wreck as Julie intentionally drives off a bridge. This frozen moment is where everything changes in David's life. She dies, his face is disfigured, and the descent into delirium begins. I will not explain in detail the events that follow, but sufficed to say they are extraordinarily scary & confusing, thoughtful & important. This is where film starts posing questions... questions of David and of us, the viewer.

The acting is very good. Tom Cruise is becoming a perennial Oscar contender and should be considered here. The chemistry between Cruise and Cruz is palatable and sweet. The intimate connection between them will not be lost on some fans who may harbor resentment toward them for the break up of Tom and Nicole. (Which, if I may say so, is quite ridiculous.) The director, Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous), has said of the two leads that he was delighted in the way he caught them falling in love on camera. That is either very true or it is fabulous acting... or a little of both.

The film moves along at a brisk pace always throwing us a new bone to pick at. We find ourselves questioning what we are watching; reality, dream, both, neither. Crowe always paints a picture with his scenes, but here, if you pay close attention, especially in multiple viewings, you will find that those pictures are familiar.

There are many scenes that are quite stunning, most notably the opening 10 minutes where we see David drive through New York during rush hour completely alone. He ends up in a desolate Times Square in one of the more amazing logistical shots I have ever seen. Also note a final shot of New York City, near the end of the film, that is equally stunning, and due to recent events the skyline has a poignant touch.

The resolution comes to us in the final fifteen minutes. We finally find out who everyone is. The friendly psychologist (Russell), Julie and Sofia, Ellie, and another mysterious man who shows up on occasion. It will all make sense to you by then... sort of.

I must make a special note to the magnificent soundtrack. Cameron Crowe, no doubt due to his musical background, specializes in this under appreciated aspect of filmmaking. Almost Famous also had a great selection of music that enhanced the film significantly.

Mulholland Drive worked because it made no pretense that it could be 'figured out', and for that it was brave. Vanilla Sky does try to answer that which is posed and still we are left with a rather vague concept of what we watched. I felt like I understood the themes, but I was left with more of a notion than a concrete idea. But perhaps I am criticizing that which makes the film so good. My brain hurts!

Among many other things this film comments on the pop culture society we live in, it ruminates on the ethereal nature of true love, it places much importance on the little things we do and the consequences of the choices we make. Vanilla Sky is a bold film with tons of ambition, a quality I truly appreciate in films today because it is so rare. Want to exercise your mind? Well here is the treadmill.

© Written by TC Candler

How We Rated This Film

TC Candler -

A
Richard Propes - B
Jacob Hall - B+

Richard Propes' Comment

Overall, this may, in fact, be much better than a B- film. However, I have a hard time justifying a higher grade for a film that I simply haven't fully integrated yet. Perhaps, as time goes on, this grade will increase...however, for now, I'll say this is a slightly above average film with some mind-boggling parts leading to a confusing, yet entertaining whole.

Jacob Hall's Comment

Ingenious, brilliant, and altogether fascinating.

Although one of the most critically lambasted movies of it's year, "Vanilla Sky" is good...no, great. The entire cast excels, and writer/director Cameron Crowe creates a vivid atmosphere and storyline; things that are not important turn out ot be important, and the important aspects of the story matter none.

To tell you the story would be taking the fun out of everything. It's almost impossible to describe. Tom Cruise is a rich snob with a "girlfriend" of sorts. He meets a nice woman (Penelope Cruz) and the next day his life is changed forever.

What can I say other than brilliant?


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