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Read past reviews by the Film Gang

Vanilla Sky
Reviewed by Dennis Morton

Possibly the best two lines in a movie this year were written by Cameron Crowe, the director and screenwriter of "Vanilla Sky", playing ubiquitously on America's silver screens. I won't tell you which man and woman in the film say them, but listen for these lines: 

     "Look at us - I'm frozen and you're dead," he says. 
     "It's a problem", she says.

In the context in which they occur, these lines are simultaneously tragic and absurdly comic. They preface a life altering decision by the film's protagonist. 

"Vanilla Sky" is serious, odd, funny and, contrary to what you may have heard, quite explicable. Don't be put off by reviewers who complain that the plot is a bewildering maze. It's not. Take the advice offered by the title of the movie Cameron Crowe's film is based on: the 1997 Spanish film called "Abre Los Ojos", or "Open Your Eyes". I'm afraid that's what some of these critics failed to do, and, in the process, they've missed the essence of the movie.

"Vanilla Sky" is actually a science fiction morality play. And it works in spite of a troublesome performance by box office magnet Tom Cruise. Cruise plays the part of David Aames, a young man with a fear of heights, which, in his case makes great metaphorical sense. Born into fabulous wealth, at an early age David inherits every penny of it. Since
he's already at the top, the only direction is down. 

"Vanilla Sky" is a movie about surfaces and hollow centers. It's about velocity and quietude, karma, suffering, love and fear, dreaming and, most importantly, consciousness. And finally, it's about acceptance and letting it all go. 

Like "Waking Life" and "Mulholland Drive", dreams figure prominently in "Vanilla Sky". But more than the others', Crowe's script seems touched by a message straight from the Buddha: wake up...this is it, this IS your life, right now. And what follows from that is the
necessity of discovering what's really important about being alive.

"Vanilla Sky" is thematically ambitious. As art, it's marred. Tom Cruise can't quite breathe life into the major character. It's not that he doesn't try. Perhaps he tries too hard. When an actor's work calls attention to itself, the viewer is pulled away from the story and the
magic spell of a good narrative is broken. And Crowe's script sometimes suffers from the
same eagerness. There is a beautiful scene embedded in one of the dream sequences. Anyone familiar with the work of Bob Dylan, and the packages his music comes in, will recognize it instantly. It's funny and nostalgic, and very clever. But a good joke requires no explanation, which is exactly what Crowe provides a few minutes down the line.

Still, this is an intelligent, complicated and ultimately rewarding film. Don't be dissauded by those who've seen it but left for the theatre without their thinking caps. Notwithstanding it's failures, "Vanilla Sky" is no pie in the sky. It's one of the season's better movies.

Copyright Dennis Morton 2001