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"The only 'ism' in Hollywood is plagiarism."  -Dorothy Parker
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday July 28, 2020 

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David Aames (Tom Cruise) has it all; an inherited publishing empire, a swanky bachelor pad, a Porsche, and sex on call with gorgeous bed-mate Julie (Cameron Diaz). At his birthday party he is taken by Sofia (Penelope Cruz), who's dating his best bud Brian (Jason Lee). After a sexless night of navel gazing, David leaves Sofia's apartment and finds jealous Julie stalking him. He foolishly accepts a ride and she drives off a bridge, killing herself and maiming him. Forced to wear a latex face mask, David talks to defence psychologist McCabe (Kurt Russell) about Julie, Sofia, losing his looks and being accused of an alleged murder. Or does he?

Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
Vanilla Sky is a re-working of the 1997 Spanish film Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes) starring Penelope Cruz, which was obviously noticed by Tom Cruise. It was a mind-bending existential thriller and a warped fairy-tale of intrigue, horror, science fiction, mythology and dream tableaux. By comparison, Vanilla Sky is a distasteful, self-aggrandising backslap that lacks the heart of both the film it is based on and the earlier Crowe-Cruise production, Jerry Maguire. Each features a successful, egotistical, self-imploding individual whose life is sent on a downward spiral when he's dealt a tough hand. He's no longer able to get by on his charm and good looks alone.

Losing his looks might be Cruise's greatest nightmare, but for the rest of us, it is the facial equivalent of Gwyneth Paltrow in a fat suit - shallow. Crowe's film is a tritely layered allegory that sits somewhere between metaphysical dream and waking nightmare. But it's so inaccessible as to render it a meaningless jumble of psuedo-philosophical hooey. Which is why the DVD format is so great. You can go over the supposed clues - revealed by Crowe in his commentary - and piece together the narrative.

Things get a little boring except for when Crowe calls Cruise on the phone so they can reminisce about how "cool" the movie is. But you can watch it over and over until you go almost crazy trying to figure it out, and the DVD's two hours of extras are almost essential to helping you unlock the puzzle. The featurette Prelude to a Dream describes how Crowe came across the source material, the casting and the logistics of emptying Time Square. He's one passionate puppy. The second featurette, Hitting it Hard, follows the international press junket and shows how popular Tom Cruise is - for those that didn't know - and how ugly some of his fans can be (watch out for the Eskimo). There's a music interview with Paul McCartney, yet his title track is strangely absent from the DVD. The introduction by photographer Neal Preston is banal, except for when he reminisces about his time with Crowe at Rolling Stone magazine (shades of Almost Famous).

The photo gallery is shamelessly glossy, and points to this entire film - not just the DVD - being an elaborate yet half-cocked vanity parade for Cruz, Cruise and Crowe. It's a sad thing when filmmakers forget their audience.

Published July 18, 2002

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CAST: Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz, Kurt Russell, Cameron Diaz, Jason Lee, Noah Taylor, Tilda Swinton

DIRECTOR: Cameron Crowe

RUNNING TIME: 135 minutes

SPECIAL FEATURES: Prelude to a Dream; Featurette - Hitting it Hard; Music interview with Paul McCartney; Music video - Afrika Shox - Leftfield/Afrika Bambaataa; Photo gallery - audio introduction by photographer Neal Preston; Audio Commentary by director Cameron Crowe and composer Nancy Wilson; Unreleased teaser trailer and international theatrical trailer

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount Home Video

DVD RELEASE: 12 July 2002

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