Cameron Crowe is one of my favorite filmmakers. His films are usually filled with characters who are believable, characters you can care about and a story that makes you feel good. "Vanilla Sky" is a complete departure for Crowe as it has none of these things.
David Aames (Tom Cruise), the young, rich head of a publisher producing three popular magazines, lives life to the fullest. Work is a secondary consideration for him and his board of trustees, 'the Seven Dwarves', as he calls them, is not very happy about it. His occasional sex buddy, Julie Gianni (Cameron Diaz), is young and beautiful, but is becoming too attached for his own comfort. At his birthday party, David's best friend, Brian Shelby (Jason Lee), a writer, brings a new friend, Sofia (Penelope Cruz). David begins to flirt with Sofia and falls in love. Julie notices this and soon becomes jealous.
"Vanilla Sky" is meant to be an 'erotic thriller', yet I have difficulty labeling it that. There is virtually no sex and very little romance. Many of the scenes between David and Sofia (or Cruise Squared as I like to call them) involve them talking about nothing. But, you see, this is meant to mean they are talking about everything. In their post-coital bliss, they mutter sweet nothings to each other which sound like the worst poetry two love sick teenagers utter to one another. It becomes annoying fast.
It is also difficult to care about David Aames. Young, brash and full of himself, he isn't a very likable person. This is fine at the beginning or end of a film, if the character has changed during the course of our viewing. But Aames doesn't really change. Throughout the course of the film, he becomes more desperate, but he doesn't really become a better or worse person.
Technically, the film is fine. Crowe's films are always very well-made and he doesn't disappoint here. A very early scene shows Cruise walking through an empty Times Square. The shot is arresting and interesting and apparently they were able to shut down Times Square to get the shot. This is just one example of the technical skills employed by Crowe throughout his films.
The film takes a very different turn during the last thirty minutes, by way of explaining all of the strange goings-on. The turn is alluded to very briefly in earlier scenes, but the explanation is so ludicrous that it would be laughable if the film were not so serious about it. I have talked before about believing in what a film is trying to sell you, but I wasn't able to buy into this. For this change in storyline to work, it needs to be more prevalent throughout the film. A few toss-away lines can not build up to the new ending.
"Vanilla Sky" is really an incomprehensibly bad film. A very disappointing effort from Crowe and Cruise