Pros: Mind-bending, fantastical story that makes you think
Cons: Sci-fi ending hard to swallow, makes people think!
Be warned-I'm going to give away details about major scenes in 'Vanilla Sky' AND the movie's surprise ending, so if you want to be surprised, I suggest you skip my review. However, if you really want to know what happened, or you've seen the movie and are trying to make sense of it, perhaps you will find my review helpful.
Depending on how you take it, 'Vanilla Sky' is either a boring, confusing romantic drama turned sci-fi movie that leaves you waiting for it to end or a fantastic mind-bending journey into a world where dreams are reality and reality is just a dream. After reading about this movie and talking to others who have seen it, I find that most people hated it or simply didn't get it. Perhaps a certain amount of intelligence, patience and/or curiosity is needed to fully understand and experience this flick.
The main question on most peoples' mind about 'Vanilla Sky' is: What was real and what was a dream? Now, I didn't write this movie and I *could* be wrong here...but the entire movie was a dream. A dream within a dream, actually. At the beginning of the movie, we find David Ames (Tom Cruise) being woken up by the sound of Penelope Cruz's voice on his alarm clock saying, "Open your eyes...open your eyes..." He wakes up and gets ready to start his day. When he leaves the house, he looks at his watch. The time is 9:05am. He drives into Times Square and although there are cars parked along the streets, no one is around. He freaks out and goes into the middle of Times Square and screams, looking up to a vanilla sky. Immediately, we hear Cameron Diaz's voice on the alarm clock saying, "Open your eyes...Open your eyes..." He is in bed with her, and the time is 7:00am, indicating that the first scene was just a dream. Fast forward to David's birthday party, where we find out that Cameron Diaz is just his "sex buddy", though she thinks she is much more, and he meets Penelope Cruz, brings her home and begins the process of falling in love with her. When he is leaving Cruz's apartment, he meets Diaz on the street and she offers to give him a ride. She is upset with him because she found out he sees her as just his "sex buddy" and jealous that he involves himself with other women. She is in love with him, and her feelings are unrequited. Angry, she drives off a bridge, trying to kill both herself and David. She succeeds in killing herself, but David survives the crash.
He is left horribly disfigured and in danger of losing control over the business he owns 51% of, which was left to him after his parents died in a car crash when he was 11. He struggles to get back on track, and struggles with his disfigurement. He is given a mask to wear by his doctors which will not only hide his disfigurement, but help heal his scars. He eventually meets up with Penelope Cruz again, and asks for them to get together one night. She agrees to meet him at a club and brings along his best friend (Who she has been seeing.) David gets drunk and he and his friend want to walk her home. She walks with them most of the way, then insists on going the rest of the way herself, because she doesn't want them to know where she lives. Keep in mind David has already been at her apartment. (This indicates this scene is part of a dream.) As he is drunk and stumbling on the street, David's best friend follows Penelope and David watches them kiss. He passes out on the curb, dropping his mask.
In the next scene, David awakens to Penelope over him on the curb, under a vanilla sky. She tells him she never kissed his best friend, that he imagined it. She helps him recover, and they stay together (as a couple) for a long time. He is haunted by nightmares and visions of Cameron Diaz, and often confuses Diaz and Cruz in his mind. He is plagued by guilt over what happened with Diaz. In an attempt to rid himself of these nightmares, he kills Cruz when they are having sex. (He saw her as Diaz.) (This part of the movie is quite complex!) Throughout the movie, parts of the story are told through David talking to a psychologist in a prison. While in the prison, he is overheard having a nightmare, screaming out, "Ellie! Ellie!" When asked who "Ellie" is, he says he doesn't know. Later, he realizes that "Ellie" is not a person, but a business...and here comes the surprise ending! "Ellie" is LE: Life Extension, a company that cryogenically freezes people so that they may wake up years later and continue their lives. He begins to remember that after the crash, he signed up to be cryogenically frozen, paying extra money for a "lucid dream" option, then killed himself. The entire murder scenario has been a dream...a glitch in the lucid dream program provided by LE. He screams out for tech support, in order to correct the glitch. The lucid dream program was supposed to produce only GOOD dreams, not nightmares as David was having. Tech support shows up and explains the situation: David chose (when he signed up for the program) to have his last memory of his life be the night at the club with Penelope. The program kicked in with the scene of Penelope waking him up on the street. Tech support offers him two options: They can fix the glitch which caused David to have nightmares and remember events from after the night at the club, and David can continue his lucid dream, remembering nothing from before the club, or he can conquer his biggest and last remaining fear, the fear of heights, by jumping off a building and waking up in the real world, unfrozen, 150 years later. He chooses to conquer his fear and jumps. He is woken up in the real world by a nurse saying "Open your eyes." As he opens one eye, the movie ends.
Pretty powerful stuff, if you ask me. But what actually happened? Take it for what it's worth, accept the explanation given by tech support in the movie, or delve even deeper...
The ENTIRE movie is a dream, except for the last few seconds when the nurse says "Open your eyes." Yes, the scene at the beginning with David waking up to Diaz was real. The crash was real. But David was in a coma after the crash (We learn this about 45 minutes into the movie.) and the whole of the story was him remembering what had happened, during a series of lucid dreams he experiences while in a coma. He remembered the crash, but only dreamt of the events after it. The meaning of the options tech support gave him? Choose to stay in a coma or wake up and live your life.
I've revealed a great deal about this movie, yet I STILL suggest you go see it. It's probably better to watch it if you know a bit about it in the first place. Watching it the first time may leave you confused and feeling cheated. The movie is marketed as a fantastical romance story, and at the end you find out that you just paid $8.50 for a sci-fi flick that's hard to understand.
I read many reviews on this movie before going to see it. Most of them warned of bad acting and a confusing script, not worth the price of admission. I decided to see for myself how bad this movie is, but guess what? This movie isn't bad at all, and could easily become one of my favorites! The acting is actually very convincing. Yes, the movie as a whole would have been more convincing had it been cast with beautiful unknowns (except for Cameron Diaz) and had some things in the movie been explained more obviously. Also, scenes from the original trailer contained scenes that were not in the movie at all, a sign that a lot had been cut from the movie. That leaves me wondering, would the movie had been better if it was three hours long but explained everything? I hope those cut scenes are included on the DVD release!
I think most people like their movies to be an escape. What 'Vanilla Sky' does is draws you in to a world where you don't know what's real and you have to think about what you've just seen. To me, this is an escape. To you, it may be a source of disappointment and frustration. Also, if you take the movie as a simple sci-fi flick, you'll likely be disappointed. But 'Vanilla Sky' is much more. It's a journey into another time, another place...an all-encompassing dreamland. You'll laugh, you'll imagine, you'll wonder...and if you take to heart the main message of this movie, you'll understand that life is nothing without love, and the material world is left behind at death, so why do we put so much importance on our looks, our money, our things instead of what's inside us and the people we love?