*** Official "VANILLA SKY" Review Thread

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Robert Crawford, Dec 15, 2001.

  1. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
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    This thread is now the Official Review Thread for Vanilla Sky. Please post all HTF member reviews in this thread.
    Any other comments, links to other reviews, or discussion items will be deleted from this thread without warning! If you need to discuss those type of issues, I have designated an Official Discussion Thread which can be found at this link.
  2. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

    Oct 3, 2000
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    Vanilla Sky - [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] out of [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    It’s no secret that Cameron Crowe is a rather “personal” filmmaker. The autobiographical roots and obviously personal moments that were so evident in his earlier films (Say Anything, Singles, Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous) are precisely what elevated those movies above your average comedy fare. Unfortunately, that personal side is rarely evident in the technically amazing but somewhat soulless Vanilla Sky.
    A remake of 1997’s Abre los Ojos (Open Your Eyes), Vanilla Sky tells the tale of a spoiled rich guy named David Aames. With his cocksure attitude, massive bank account and a crooked grin, David shmoozes his way through life, acting as chairman for one of his late father’s magazine corporations. Since David is played by Tom Cruise, you can of course assume that he’s also quite good with the ladies. As the movie opens, David is in bed with the lovely Julie Gianni (Cameron Diaz), yet she’s not his girlfriend. Despite her bemused protestations to the contrary, Julie is madly in love with David.
    During a birthday party in his massive Manhattan penthouse, David meets Sofia Serrano and promptly falls for her. David rudely ignores the fact that Sofia has arrived with his best friend, Brian Shelby (Jason Lee), and instead begins to romance the free-spirited gal. Julie arrives at the party uninvited, while David and Sophia take off to find somewhere secluded. Things take a turn for the tragic when Julie finally loses it and shanghais David off a bridge in her car.
    I’ve read a few reviews that go into considerably more detail regarding the plot, but this is one film in which preconceived notions could topple the whole experience, so I’ll leave it at that. The bulk of Vanilla Sky is concerned with themes of ‘appearance vs. realty’ and the significance of our dreams, waking and otherwise. That Vanilla Sky is fascinating in some spots and distressingly dull in others is somewhat surprising given Crowe’s track record.
    One of Vanilla Sky’s biggest flaws lies in the explanation of David’s torment. If you’ve ever seen a mystery in which the killer proves to be someone who was JUST introduced to the film, you know what I mean. While this portion of the film is certainly interesting enough to experience, it hardly seems congruent with the rest of the movie. The mysterious revelations seem a little like a cinematic shortcut; a metaphysical cheat.
    Tom Cruise delivers a very strong performance, one on par with his best work in films like Jerry Maguire and Magnolia, while Cameron Diaz is shockingly good as the haunted Julie. (Anyone who’s always seen Diaz as nothing more than “cutesy” will be pleasantly surprised.) Jason Lee is as entertaining as ever, despite the fact that his Brian is a depressingly under-written role. Kurt Russell delivers a fantastic performance as a police psychologist trying to unlock David’s secrets. And then there’s Penelope Cruz, the vacuous black hole that threatens to suck the entire movie under. With her muppet-esque appearance and her ridiculously grating voice, Cruz is simply buried beneath all the good performances surrounding her. Her character’s barest essential is simply to be “gorgeous” and she fails at even that. Perhaps she was cast because she played the same role in the original version, but Cruz sucks the energy out of nearly every scene she appears in.
    Crowe does manage to litter Vanilla Sky with several stunning visual sequences: the opening scene (in which David finds New York City completely deserted) is quite compelling, as is the finale, which can best be described as “The Matrix minus the guns”. The set design and interiors are appropriately lush and impressive, and the entire movie has a sheen of sterile colorfulness that definitely works. As is always the case in Crowe's film, the score and soundtrack are note perfect while John Toll's fantastic cinematagrophy is a visual feast.
    What’s absent is the heart and soul. It’s perhaps ironic that a film about love, truth and reality would be so devoid of true emotion, especially considering the filmmaker behind the camera. In this respect, Vanilla Sky comes off less like an emotional epic and more like a weird, sad story that you’re hearing second-hand. That Vanilla Sky veers wildly into science-fiction territory in its third act shows how disjointed much of the film is.
    The lack of real emotion may be directly attributed to Cruise himself. After seeing the original film, Cruise acquired the rights for a remake by producing a “wide release flick” for director Alejandro Amenabar, which turned out to be The Others. That The Others is about five times better a film than Vanilla Sky means nothing. Cruise saw a vanity project in which he could showcase his elfish good looks, while affording good buddy Cameron Crowe an opportunity to direct a “big-budget American Art Feelm”.
    Despite these obvious flaws, Vanilla Sky is certainly not a bad film by anyone’s measure. It’s a compelling and interesting film that never really manages to go beyond “compelling and interesting”. If David were perhaps more of a real guy and less of a “rich-boy womanizer” character, if the last hour was tightened up considerably, and if Penelope Cruz could act even a little, well then we might have had a modern classic.
    As it stands, Vanilla Sky is certainly worth recommending to fans of Crowe, Cruise and Diaz or those just in the mood for a good trippy mind-bender. Just don’t expect it to change your life.
  3. JohnS

    JohnS Producer

    Jan 17, 2001
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    John Steffens
    Vanilla Sky
    Having seen "Open Your Eyes"(Abres Los Ojos), I can safely say that it is so much better than Vanilla Sky.
    I know what I'm mainly doing is comparing the two films, but I'm also trying to think of Vanilla on its own.
    Where "OYE" is dark, psychological and mysterious. Cameron Crowe directs this too bright and hip(and that's not a compliment) and looses alot of the complexity of the film, and even dulls it down.
    He adds an annoying soudtrack that subtracts the mystery to the film, and ends up being some music video(but thats Crowe I guess)
    MOst of the time it seems like Crowe and the actors are making fun of the older version. Especially Diaz/Cruise's characters. They are formulated wrong and even seems like complete opposites of what they should be.
    One last thing about Crowe's version is that, it seems like he's revelaing "a little to much" to part of the secret early on in the film. Further more, at the end, he explains it as if the movie is called "Vanilla Sky for Dummies"
    This is by far the worst Cameron Crowe film I've seen, and I really think he needs to go back what he knows how to do.
    There's a line that Jason Lee says in the movie, "I miss the old you, because the new guy is shit!" That pretty much sums up my view on "Vanilla Sky"
    BUT I do give a big plus to John Tolls brillant cinematography.
  4. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator

    Jun 30, 1999
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    I think this film was a miss for Cameron Crowe and Tom Cruise. It's too predictable once the 3rd act unfolds, and thus, the resolution. To be honest, it's not dark enough given the subject matter of the film.

    While it's hard to discuss a film such as this to someone who hasn't seen it, due to how the film is constructed thematically, I can say it won't be everyone's cup of tea, and even if you get something out of it, the screenplay seems heavy-handed, and about 15 minutes too long. It doesn't quite play fair with the audience, which is my main complaint. But given the subject matter, it's almost the equivalent of handing over a writer a blank check with a screenplay where you can throw everything including the kitchen sink, and you don't have to have account for anything that went on for the 1st 2 acts of the film to tidy up the 3rd and final act. I came away without much to chew on upstairs (bear in mind, I haven't seen the original Spanish version of this film yet).

    I give it 2.5 stars or a grade of C+.
  5. David Ely

    David Ely Supporting Actor

    Sep 1, 1998
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    I'm still not sure how I feel about this movie. The only thing that is certain, is that Open Your Eyes is a much better movie.

    I did enjoy Vanilla Sky, but as others have said, they explained everything too well. By the time you leave the theater, there's nothing to think about.
  6. Chuck Mayer

    Chuck Mayer Lead Actor

    Aug 6, 2001
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    Northern Virginia
    Real Name:
    Chuck Mayer
    Some spoilers ahead...
    I have not seen Open Your Eyes. I plan to. At the earliest opportunity.
    Cameron Crowe is one of my favorite directors. He has not made a single movie I dislike. His worst film to date is Singles...and it's a pretty good movie.
    So...what's this movie about? I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. Not the HOW. That got answered. Even the WHY got answered. But the question and the journey are as important as the answer and the destination.
    I will say no more about the plot than Scott W. said above. He covered it as much as any reviewer should. The neatness at the end irked some reviewers, who would have preferred a more open end to the story. I felt it was open ended ENOUGH to suit the purpose of the story. While playing a little with reality vs. dreams, the story is consistent throughout. The themes of loneliness and love are well-handled by Crowe. This would go to a deserted island with nine other movies if I was given that choice[​IMG] And not just for Cameron Diaz.
    I do have minor complaints. It does need to be tighter. I didn't notice it dragging, but in the end, could have done with a bit less. I felt the pop culture references added to the movie for the most part, but a few were intrusive.
    Overall, given my preconceptions, I loved the movie. What more can I say. Except...
    Take care,
  7. DennisP

    DennisP Stunt Coordinator

    May 5, 2000
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    I just returned from seeing Vanilla Sky. I expected something more than this film provided. Throughout the movie I expected to be able to follow the plot until the very end. I was sadly mistaken. Perhaps I missed something in the way of hints or clues (other than Bennie the Dog).

    The ending, in my opinion, was a complete "pull it out of your hat" deal. I like movies that weave a plot what can be discovered by the viewer as it progresses. Vanilla Sky did not do this for me. This movie left me cold.
    I'm not sorry I saw it. The acting was first rate and the photography was very well done.
    I rate this movie [​IMG] 1/2 out of [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
  8. brian a

    brian a Second Unit

    Jan 29, 2000
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    I just got back from seeing this flick tonight and am surprised at the negative feedback it's getting. I guess I should try to track down Open Your Eyes, as I haven't seen it yet.

    I enjoyed Vanilla Sky quite a bit. I thought the acting was great and was for the most part beautifully shot. Decent messages about love and how you live your life as a series of choices. Maybe a bit heavy-handed at times.

    I'd have to say that, other than the soundtrack, it didn't scream Crowe to me. But that's neither good nor bad.

    I thought that the ending was a bit expository, but they did a good job of having things need to be explained to the characters as well as the audience. Nothing I hate more than seeing someone told something they already know.

    It wrapped up the events of the film in a nice little package, but it did manage to leave the question of the future, which is about all one can hope for in a major american film such as this.

    I'd go 4 out of 5 comparing it to the other films I've seen this year. I'd say it's in the top 10 I've seen.

    I guess that's what makes movies so great. We all take our own life filters to watch the films through.

  9. Rob Willey

    Rob Willey Screenwriter

    Apr 10, 2000
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    I too liked this movie a lot more than most here. I haven't seen Abre Los Ojos. I thought Cameron Diaz, Kurt Russell, Tom Cruise and Jason Lee were all very good, especially Diaz.

    A tighter edit might have improved it and I'm ambivalent about the ending. On the one hand, it was nice to get a synopsis answering all the questions, but on the other I really like movies that leave things unresolved.

    My two favorite musical moments were Solsbury Hill and Good Vibrations.

    All in all, I put this one in my top ten for the year. Recommended.

  10. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

    Nov 5, 1998
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    My short review from the 2002 films thread. (edit to expand some thoughts)

    Vanilla Sky

    8 of 10

    I've heard the knocks on this film, Crowe indulging his own taste in film and music rather than the character's. To that I say "what?" Cruise plays a man whose money and lifestyle affords him nothing but the chances to have a huge taste in music and film, items that end up playing rather important in the film. I liked the usage with his character.

    Cruise continues to excel as an actor and this role gives him a lot to do. He eats this pretentious character up and often avoids given us sympathy for him when it would be inappropriate to do so. His character needs growth and therefore needs to be flawed for most of the film.

    Having not seen the original yet, I can imagine how it would be done less "Hollywood" and I know that can be a very good thing (Wings of Desire vs City of Angels), yet I don't think Crowe failed here either. He made a remake that feels like him yet still takes us on a great journey of character.

    While some reviewers have lamented at the closed ending, rather than leaving it open, I think they failed to realize that the open-ending now falls on the shoulders of what the future holds for Cruise. The journey in the film is resolved but there is a whole slew of questions that await Cruise after the film ends, and answers that we can only begin to guess at.

    Very well edited especially, plus some wonderful cinematography/directing. Good use of camera movement in an appropriate manner. So often pans are used in a melodramtic, corny fashion, but here they are applied with a deft touch and to a necessary degree without going too far.

    And music? Well clearly Crowe thinks in terms of music, he's that sort of director much like Wes Anderson. While some may not care for the application of pop music, obscure or not, to some types of films, there is just no doubting Crowe's ability to match the right music to the right scene and to link a series of scenes with the right sequence of music. It's his forte.

    Let's just say I will never hear "Good Vibrations" the same way again.

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