It has been said that there is a fine line between sanity and madness and that some people skirt the edges of the two extremes daily. This theory also opens the door to larger questions such as what is sane and what is crazy, and who gets to make the definition in order to classify an individual or group. There is also the issue of traumatic stress disorder where a person may behave in an insane way part of the time, as a result of a traumatic incident and can return to normal functioning ability at a moments notice. In the new Cameron Crowe film “Vanilla Sky” the issues of the mind, and its myriad of perceptions comes to the forefront of larger issues against a backdrop of a life gone out of control.
At the outset of the film, viewers are introduced to David Aames (Tom Cruise), a spoiled rich kid, who lives life on his terms. Having inherited a large publishing empire from his late father, David spends his time bedding supermodels and making his own rules. He is a man of position and influence and the power people all want to be a part of his world and have a moment of his time. While hosting a lavish Birthday party for himself, David meets an enticing young lady named Sofia(Penelope Cruz), who is being escorted to the party by David’s best friend a writer named Brian Shelby (Jason Lee). Brian tells David that he really likes Sofia but is willing to let David have a chance with her in the interest of friendship. David starts to charm Sofia, but in doing so draws the jealousy of model Julie Gianni (Cameron Diaz) as David has been sleeping with her and making no effort to treat it as any more than a casual thing. David ignores Julie the rest of the night and eventually takes Sofia to her place as they spend the night talking and listening to music. As David is heading home in the morning, he encounters Julie and she convinces him to take a car ride with her. What starts out as a fun conversation quickly takes a turn for the worse as it is revealed that Julie is determined to make David love her and she believes that since he has had sex with her, he owes her some sort of emotional response. In a fit of rage, Julie drives the car off a bridge, killing herself and leaving David badly disfigured and crippled.
David awakens to find his life hasd gone horribly wrong. Despite extensive surgery, his face is still a mass of scars, he has become a shut in, Sofia does not want to be around him, and the board of his publishing company seems determined to take control of his company from him.
The story is told in a series of flashbacks as David in the custody of the Police for a crime that he claims he did not commit. As David is being interviewed by Dr McCabe(Kurt Russell), in an effort to determine his sanity to stand trial, David thinks that he is being setup by the members of his board in an attempt to gain control of his company. David eventually reunites with Sofia and has his appearance restored through a new surgical technique. As David starts to reclaim his life, his relationship with Sofia grows and he is happy. Happiness is fleeting for David However as he starts to see Julie when he is with Sofia. The Sofia he has grown to love seems to have vanished and been replaced by the woman he knew as Julia. Complicating matters further is that pictures of the couple and David’s friends seem to indicate that Julia is indeed Sofia and that the woman he knew as Sofia never existed. Faced with these circumstances, David begins a rapid descent into madness and violence and begins to question everything while those around him question his sanity.
Cruise is unsympathetic in the role of David, as the audience never cares about his character, as despite everything, he remains the same self-centered individual throughout the film. Lee and Diaz are sadly underused in the film and more than once I questioned why someone did not just hit David and why they continued to let him push them around even when his influence and power were removed from him.
Penelope Cruz is an cute actress, but she is given little to do in this film aside from smile and deliver her lines in an accent that makes it difficult to understand what she is saying at times and become little more that set dressing in many scenes. Cruise is getting to old to play the pretty boy roles and his range of expression in the film is limited to a frustrated scream and a pseudo calm delivery that sounds like he is trying to deliver his lines as fast as he can in some scenes. There is very little chemistry between Cruise and Cruz and for two people who were supposed to be an on screen couple while filming I found this hard to believe. It seems that the whole relationship between them could have been a studio fabrication to take the attention away from the divorce and rumors surround Cruise and Nicole Kidman. The funny thing is, the same thing seemed to happen years ago with Kidman and Cruise when filming “Days of Thunder” while Cruise was divorcing Mimi Rogers amidst a swirl of rumors. One thing is for certain you can bet that Penelope Cruz will be given a better range of roles in the future and the publicity surrounding the stars will create interest in the film.
The studios have insisted that reviewers do not give the ending of the film away, and as that is not my policy to begin with let me just say that it was very absurd and unsatisfying. Even as the conclusion of the film unfolded, many in the audience sat in disbelief and commented about the ending negatively as we exited the theater. The ending could have worked, but much like the rest of the film, it was a lazy and uninspired effort. My suggestion is to avoid this film and instead rent Open Your Eyes (Abre Los Ojos) the film upon which “Vanilla Sky” was based.