One of the Best of 2001
How strange the human mind is; this center of activity wherein perceptions
of reality are formed and stored, and in which one's view of the world
hinges on the finely tuned functioning of the brain, this most delicate
intricate processor of all things sensory. And how much do we really know
of it's inner-workings, of it's depth or capacity? What is it in the mind
that allows us to discern between reality and a dream? Or can we?
our sense of reality is no more than an impression of what we actually
like looking at a painting by Monet, in which the vanilla sky of his
becomes our reality. It's a concept visited by filmmaker Cameron Crowe in
his highly imaginative and consciousness-altering film, `Vanilla Sky,'
starring Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz. At the age of thirty-three, David
Aames (Cruise) inherits a publishing empire left to him by his father.
fifty-one percent controlling interest, however, has made him something of
marked man, as there are seven members of his board of directors, and each
deems himself more worthy than the young Mr. Aames of the lion's share of
the company. And fueling the fires of discontent is their perception that
David lacks the focus the job requires.
Admittedly, David likes to play; still, he's in control of the business
does what he sees fit, whether the board (he refers to them as the `Seven
Dwarfs') likes it or not, and no one has ever had the courage to challenge
him directly. But during a lavish birthday party in his honor, one of the
corporate lawyers, Thomas Tipp (Timothy Spall) warns David that the seven
are up to something behind his back. At the time, however, it's the last
thing on David's mind; he's been having a casual affair with a friend,
Gianni (Cameron Diaz), but even that moves to the back burner when he
a woman at his party that he can't get out of his mind. Her name is Sofia
(Penelope Cruz), and after knowing her for only one night, she becomes a
pivotal part of his life-- which is about to be turned upside down, as on
the morning after his party he makes a decision that will change his life
forever. And he is about to learn that sometimes, there is simply no
Director Cameron Crowe has crafted and delivered much more than just
another film with this one; far more than a movie, `Vanilla Sky' is a
realized. Beginning with the first images that appear on screen, he
presents a visually stunning experience that is both viscerally and
cerebrally affecting. It's a mind-twisting mystery that will swallow you
and sweep you away; emotionally, it's a rush-- and it may leave you
exhausted, because it requires some effort to stay with it. But it's
it. Think `Memento' with a driving rock n' roll soundtrack and a vibrant
assault of colors proffered by the stroke of an impressionist's brush.
There's darkness and light, and sounds that pound and drive until you can
feel the blood rushing through your veins and throbbing in your brain.
all played out on a landscape of virtual reality swirling beneath that
expanding vanilla sky. Simply put, this one's a real trip; it's
and it's a mind bender.
As to the performances here, those who can't get past the mind-set of Tom
Cruise as Maverick in `Top Gun,' or his Ethan Hunt in `Mission
or those who perceive him only as a `movie star' rather than an actor, are
going to have to think again in light of his work here. Because as David
Aames, Cruise gives the best performance of his career, one that should
check any doubts as to his ability as an actor at the door. He's made
interesting career choices the past few years, with films like `Magnolia'
and `Eyes Wide Shut' merely warm-ups for the very real and complex
he creates here. And give him credit, too, for taking on a role that
dispels any sense of vanity; this is Cruise as you've never seen him
`Jerry Maguire' earned him an Oscar nomination, and this one should,
as well as the admiration and acclaim of his peers. Cruise is not just
in this movie, he is remarkable.
Penelope Cruz turns in an outstanding, if not exceptional performance, as
well, as Sofia, the woman of David's dreams. There's an alluring
she brings to this role that works well for her character and makes her
forthcoming and accessible, yet she lacks any hint of mystery that may
added that special `something extra' to the part. But Crowe knows how to
get the best out of his actors, and he certainly did with
He also knew what he was doing with Cameron Diaz, who is absolutely
in the role of Julie. She's never looked better, and fairly sizzles on
screen. But make no mistake, this is no `window-dressing' part, and Diaz
delivers a complete package with this character. The quality of her
performance can be measured, in fact, in the impact she makes with rather
limited screen time. And it's the persona she integrates so fully with
innate beauty that makes Julie so unforgettable. Overall, a terrific job
The supporting cast includes Kurt Russell (Dr. McCabe), Jason Lee (Brian),
Johnny Galecki (Peter), Armand Schultz (Dr. Pomerantz), Noah Taylor (Ed),
Mel Thompson (`L.E.' Man), Jean Carol (Woman in New York) and John
(Silent Ed). About half-way through, this one may have you questioning
own sense of reality; but rest assured, by the end of `Vanilla Sky' all
be revealed. It's a reality-bender, to be sure, and a wild one; but this
exciting entertainment that offers a satisfying-- and unique-- experience,
one you have to see to believe. It's the essential, and absolute, magic
the movies. 10/10.
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