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Vanilla Sky

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4

All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Vanilla Sky

Starring: Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz
Director: Cameron Crowe
Rated: R
RunTime: 130 Minutes
Release Date: December 2001
Genres: Drama, Romance




Review by Edward Johnson-Ott
No Rating Supplied

Imagine putting a new CD single by one of your favorite instrumental groups on the stereo. The song has multiple lines, with each musician performing well (although you wonder whether one player's simplistic approach is a stylistic choice or a reflection of limited skills). The lines intertwine nicely as everything builds toward what promises to be a stirring climax. Unfortunately, just as the climax is reached, one of your speakers goes out. Instead of being swept away by the finale, you just hear it as information, with the depth and resonance missing.

Imagine putting a new CD single by one of your favorite instrumental groups on the stereo. The song has multiple lines, with each musician performing well (although you wonder whether one player's simplistic approach is a stylistic choice or a reflection of limited skills). The lines intertwine nicely as everything builds toward what promises to be a stirring climax. Unfortunately, just as the climax is reached, one of your speakers goes out. Instead of being swept away by the finale, you just hear it as information, with the depth and resonance missing.

That's what happens in "Vanilla Sky." The latest from "Almost Famous" director Cameron Crowe is a remake of Alejandro Amenábar's 1997 import "Abre los ojos" ("Open Your Eyes"). As always, the gifted filmmaker shows great respect and affection for his source material, but alas, fails to capture the necessary magic for the story.

Tom Cruise plays David Aames, a corporate executive living the dream life, with fantastic digs, loads of free time and a beautiful woman named Julie (Cameron Diaz), who is willing to have casual sex with him whenever he wishes. All is well until David meets Sofia (Penelope Cruz) and is taken by her on more than just a sexual level. Unfortunately for the stud, he soon learns that Julie, in fact, did not share his casual approach to their liaisons. Her rage leads to a deadly run in a car, which in turn leads to all sorts of nastiness for David.

"Vanilla Sky" is essentially a four-person story, with Kurt Russell joining Cruise, Cruz and Diaz as David's lawyer. Russell gives a sturdy performance and Penelope Cruz is fine, although it remains to be seen whether her eyes-down hesitancy reflects a stylistic decision, a lack of confidence with English or a lack of range as an actor.

As Julie, Cameron Diaz is dazzling. Watch her face as she uses that million-dollar smile to convey everything from childlike joy to crystalline rage, all with the subtlest changes in expression. Julie is scary in large part because she is almost normal. A rattlesnake lies coiled behind that giddy persona and all those teeth, and Diaz wrings every bit of tension from the dynamic. One of the most adventurous actors working today, she adds another feather to her cap with her work here.

In the lead role, Tom Cruise continues to show his ability to give depth to characters that would come off as superficial in lesser hands. Oddly enough, while Cruise is remarkably adept at playing glib, charismatic studs onscreen, he is less than convincing when doing the same on the interview circuit. On shows like "Entertainment Tonight," he leans into the interviewer too much, laughs too hard and generally seems uncomfortable playing Tom Cruise.

"Vanilla Sky" is worth a look due to sharp acting, a number of striking set pieces and its creamy veneer. The film doesn't deliver the payoff it should, but remains one of the most captivating failures of the year.

Copyright © 2001 Edward Johnson-Ott

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