| For Cameron Croweís fifth outing,
he decided to grow up. He would abandon the idealistic romanticism
of his youth (Say Anything, Jerry Maguire), move
beyond the nostalgic meditation of the way things were (Almost
Famous), and attempt to make a lasting and meaningful contribution
to the film world. His effort results as most adolescentsí attempts
to become adults do: a blend of youthful immaturity and melodramatic
heaviness. Most teens even discover their maturity through the
use of another adultís ideas, exactly like this movie, which
is based on a highly regarded Spanish movie called Abre Los
Ojos. Iíve never seen it.
Vanilla Sky tells the story of David Aames (Cruise),
a rich 30-something playboy who passes through life without
a care. He lives a decadent life made even more decadent by
his non-commitment ďfuck buddyĒ Julie Gianni (Diaz).
Things change when Aamesí friend Shelby (Lee) brings
Sofia (Cruz) to Aamesí birthday party. They fall madly
in love. The next day, Aames discovers that Gianni maybe less
of a commitment-phobe than he thought, when in a fit of jealousy
and rage, she drives them both off a bridge. They reveal all
of that in the trailer, and it only takes about 30 minutes
of the film. So where does the rest go? Indulging such plot
developments would ruin this type of movie. Youíll just have
to see it.
The movie shines in many areas. The acting, for one, is
top-notch. Tom Cruise, despite Mission Impossible: 2,
demands respect. Between this movie, Eyes Wide Shut,
and Magnolia, he has turned himself into a powerful
and intelligent actor. After the initial playboy stage, his
character passes through a dramatic change. He embodies the
change perfectly and brings fabulous depth and understanding
to the role. But heís not alone in the acting credit. Much
respect is due to Cameron Diaz, whom I have never liked in
anything. She plays the jealous bitch as both sweet and sour
which helps us to understand why Aames needs to be nice to
people. Best of all is Jason Lee, though. Despite a modicum
of screen time, he manages to subtly emote a broad range of
feelings. Ever since Mallrats, Iíve wished to see him
in more movies. Perhaps now heíll receive some deserved recognition.
Unfortunately, Cruz is lackluster. Somehow her part never
comes across with the emotional depth that it warrants. She
cries, smiles, and looks pretty.
The cinematography also deserves commendation. Several images
from the film will stay implanted in my memory forever. In
particular, the car crash had such a powerful impact that
it will always be the dominant image I associate with this
movie. Some of the images haunt, others amaze, and many electrify.
Visually, the film may be considered a masterpiece. But make
no mistake; itís not one.
My most grievous complain, and the one that will enrage
Crowe fans, is the music. Not that I dislike the songs themselves.
I rarely think about soundtracks conscientiously and cannot
even remember a single tune that was played. I feel that soundtracks
should add to the mood and ambience without drawing attention
to themselves. Some of these do not. At the end of the movie,
when all is about to be revealed and Tom Cruise is yelling
dramatically, Crowe decided to crank the music up full-blast
and inundate the audience with an incongruous pop song. So
complete and immense was the destruction of the mood that
I have to deduct a full star from the film for sheer immaturity
and annoyance. It brought back painful flashbacks from watching
teensploitation movies. Frankly, I could not believe that
no one else had noticed the problem, and I fervently wish
for an option to remove it on the DVD.
The next most severe complaint is the ending. Up until the
last 10 minutes, the film runs smoothly and strongly. Then
the end shows up and the movie becomes a didactic Disney film.
I expected a more ambiguous, intelligent ending, but I guess
I asked too much of Mr. Crowe.
My last complaint is only worth noting. Whatís with the
bad CG? For a movie starring Tom Cruise, youíd think that
they would have the money to make the sky look real. Perhaps
itís intentional, in order to make the scenes more surreal.
If it is, I disagree with the choice.
All in all, itís the most mature Crowe film to date, but
Almost Famous was better. Itís a step in the right
direction, and I encourage Mr. Crowe to try again. Iím eager
to see where he goes from here. He could be one of the teens
who need time to blossom before becoming a full-fledged adult
of society. This movie just means heís not a one of those
brainy teens who strides ahead of the pack, like Wes Anderson.