Crowe’s dream lovers

Charlie Hobart

Vanilla Sky

Directed by Cameron Crowe

(Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Jason Lee)

R

Vanilla Sky may go down in history as the film that allowed celebrity-obsessed moviegoers an attempt to quench their thirsts concerning Tom Cruise and co-star Penelope Cruz’s sneaky romance. Those wishing to see art imitating life, however (whether or not the phonetically paired twosome are “dating”), will be sorely disappointed. What Cameron Crowe’s adrenal remake of Alejandro Amenabar’s Abre Los Ojos does offer is a visually stunning yet unfulfilling trip into the realms of fantasy, reality, and death. Oh, yeah, and Tom and Penelope make love in one of the oddest scenes to hit theaters this year.

Cruise plays David Aames, a narcissistic playboy whose Maxim-like magazine inheritance and striking resemblance to Abre lead Eduardo Noriega affords him a hologram of John Coltrane and sexual encounters with Julie (Cameron Diaz in Fatal Attraction mode). At his thirty-third birthday party-so hip and trendy that it includes Steven Spielberg as a guest-David meets Sophia (Cruz, reprising her Abre Los Ojos role), much to the chagrin of Julie. Things begin to go downhill for David, literally, as Crowe’s genre-blending film morphs into a surrealistic journey where David must ask himself, “what is real and what is a dream?”

For all its set-up, Vanilla Sky simply brushes upon the themes deeply explored in earlier films like Richard Linklater’s Waking Life and Spielberg’s A.I. It is as if Crowe will nudge the audience with a secret only he knows, merely to over explain its substance at the conclusion. Instead, Crowe laces his film with style: the pop-culture references are endless and the soundtrack is fittingly contemporary (Radiohead, Bjork, Cameron Diaz (?!)). Crowe’s visuals, though, succeed tremendously. Memorable scenes such as David and Sophia’s recreation of Bob Dylan’s Freewheelin’ album cover and a conspicuous montage of American cultural images display the director’s obvious love for both music and film, and lend Vanilla Sky its buoyancy.

Crowe is undoubtedly an accomplished director, yet Vanilla Sky is in need of the poignancy and charm so prevalent in his previous film, Almost Famous. Cruise and Cruz may make a pretty pair, but ultimately, it is the film that must hold our interest.

-Charlie Hobart

Vanilla Sky opens today in theaters nationwide.