Look at this guy. His face: perfect. His hair: perfectly imperfect. Against a sky that is perfect. He has it all. This is David Aames, but it’s actually more Tom Cruise than anything else that makes us connect with David, because no one else could pull it off.
Tom Cruise has been around in the industry for over 20 years. Over the course of that time, he’s built his charisma, his persona. Solidified it, cemented it, imbibed it in the minds of the audience. And so any role he takes on, he brings that baggage with him. In Vanilla Sky, every moment with Cruise is energized by his behavior. He pulls off the yuppie playboy with such coolness it makes you feel inadequate. In no other role of his, except Eyes Wide Shut, does he seem this…cool. Cool not in the MI sense, but in the easy going confidence that he has.
But I digress in my love for the Cruise that is long gone. But Vanilla Sky is such a beautiful title, so in touch with this movie’s theme. Something that you yearn for, but can’t have, a utopia that exists within the mind, that’s a vanilla sky.
The reason for the existence of a movie like Vanilla Sky is pure simplicity: cerebral coitus. It’s why Lost, Inception, and Total Recall work. Because when you walk out of the theater, you keep debating with your friends about what the hell just happened. Otherwise, if this story was played straight, it would ascend to Bollywood levels of silliness and melodrama (or Oscar heights, depending on the treatment). It’s multi layered, intentionally, of course.
But the movie only works because of one scene: the night that David and Sofia share. It all hinges on those small moments that show David truly happy with someone. Crowe really capitalizes on the personae of his actors, not their acting specifically, because it seems like it’s just Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz flirting with each other. And sparks fly.
This is a really underrated movie based on the ratings sites that I usually go to. I don’t know why. I guess people were expecting a hardcore romantic film, and got a psychodrama. It has many layers to it, as in you don’t precisely know what is really happening in the film. There are at least 5 theories out there concerning what happens: purgatory, dream, novel, coma dream, and what really happens. It’s a wonderful hook, and Crowe understood that when he saw the original film, Abres Los Ojos. He also brought the pop culture references to the table in order to make his version different (haven’t seen the original yet though). The whole soundtrack is kick ass, a signature Crowe one.
Thematically, I love the movie because of the whole lost love angle as well as the whole yuppie trying to take charge of his life. And the whole sweet-sour idea and utopia as a whole. How much will we do to achieve utopia, and what if that utopia was a nightmare? That and the zillion Easter eggs sprinkled all through the film, in codes or in dialogs. I was actually surprised to see how most of the characters reveal what’s happening in the movie that I didn’t get the first time around.
The sky is vanilla, and a Crowe flies across it, painting happiness and melancholy all over. Pure cerebral coitus.