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DVD Pick: Vanilla Sky

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Tagline: "Forget everything you know."

Length: 135 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for sexuality and strong language

Tom Cruise and Cameron Crowe teamed up on "Jerry Maguire" (1996), and "Vanilla Sky" (2001) reunited the charismatic leading man and the talented writer-director in a very different kind of movie. "Vanilla Sky" is an unconventional film that doesn't fit neatly in any traditional genre category, but I would say it's a drama that has elements of romance, science fiction, and thriller movies. However, the main thing that sets "Vanilla Sky" apart from most films is the intriguing way it blurs the line between reality and dreams.

"Vanilla Sky" is an English-language remake of the 1997 Spanish-language movie "Abre los Ojos" ("Open Your Eyes"), and Penelope Cruz is the leading lady in both films. I should mention, however, that I saw "Vanilla Sky" before I saw "Abre los Ojos," and my perception of the two movies is undoubtedly different from that of someone who saw them in the order in which they were released. In any case, the story in both films is essentially the same, yet they differ markedly in many ways.

In "Vanilla Sky," David Aames (Cruise) is a wealthy playboy who enjoys what he thinks of as a casual sexual relationship with the beautiful Julie Gianni (Cameron Diaz). But soon David finds himself incarcerated, accused of a murder he doesn't remember. He wears a latex mask and tries to sort things out with the help of a psychiatrist (Kurt Russell). Gradually David's story unfolds, sometimes in flashback, sometimes in the present, sometimes in dreams, and it's difficult to tell which is which.

We learn that David's troubles started at the party celebrating his thirty-third birthday. There he met the charming Sofia Serrano (Cruz) and was absolutely smitten. He went home with her and had a wonderful time talking with her for the rest of the night. She kissed him goodbye, and when he left, he was walking on air.

Next morning David took a ride with an agitated Julie. She drove wildly through Manhattan, telling him she was in love with him and must have more from their relationship. Dissatisfied with David's response, Julie succumbed to jealousy and rage. Her driving became increasingly erratic, and the speeding car flew off a bridge.

As the movie progresses, we see a tender romantic relationship develop between David and Sofia. But David appears to be wracked with guilt over his careless treatment of Julie. Also, we see David struggling to come to terms with his once handsome face having become hideously disfigured. We remain fascinated, but we are puzzled by scenes that seem impossible to reconcile with one another. Finally, at about 115 minutes into the film, a character named Edmund Ventura offers an explanation that is difficult to accept.

"Vanilla Sky" is fast-paced and highly entertaining, and the look of the film is terrific. Tom Cruise is almost always on screen, and he turns in a strong performance. The romantic chemistry between Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz is excellent, and the acting chemistry between Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz is excellent as well. Also, I really like the rock music that is played on the soundtrack in nearly every scene, and the music always seems perfectly matched to what's being shown.

The commentary track on the DVD by director Cameron Crowe is one of the best I've heard. Pay particular attention to what he says near the end of the film when he suggests three or four possible interpretations of the movie. Although Crowe's commentary is loaded with information, it's done in a very informal style. His wife, Nancy Wilson, occasionally makes remarks and sometimes furnishes guitar accompaniment. Their children are also heard, as is a barking dog. Crowe also talks briefly via telephone to Tom Cruise.

There are two featurettes on the DVD. One is a six-minute introduction to the film by Crowe. Titled "Prelude to a Dream," it is probably intended to be viewed prior to watching the movie. The other featurette, titled "Hitting It Hard," is ten minutes long and shows Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz on the film's international press tour.

There's at least one Easter egg on the DVD, and it's referred to on the commentary track as the "Gag Reel." The Gag Reel runs for about five and one-half minutes. I've documented how to find this Easter egg elsewhere on this site.

The DVD contains a few other special features as well, and I've listed most of them below.

Selected DVD Details:

Release Date: May 21, 2002
Commentary by Director Cameron Crowe
Featurette: "Prelude to a Dream"
Featurette: "Hitting It Hard"
Interview With Paul McCartney
Music Video "Afrika Shox" by Leftfield/Afrika Bambaataa
Photo Galleries (Audio Intro by Photographer Neal Preston)
Unreleased Teaser Trailer
International Trailer
Easter Egg (Gag Reel)

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