Vanilla Sky
**.9 GM
Starring: Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Jason Lee, Timothy Spall, Kurt Russell


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Cameron Crowe and I really seem to have the same taste in music, so I should probably just go buy all the soundtracks to all of his movies just on principle. I also tend to really dig on his movies, since they're usually of a pretty personal nature and hit a lot of buttons that happen to correspond with my particular emotional make-up. However, in "Vanilla Sky," he seems to be stepping beyond his strengths and attempting to make a more visual, fantasy-like film and, although I can hardly fault him for the attempt, the results are not quite as effective as it may have been if, say, Terry Gilliam were at the helm.

Cruise is a rich guy that's never had to work a day in his life, who gets to nail Cameron Diaz without the troublesome 'relationship' baggage and who is "snowboarding through life," so we have no sympathy for him despite the fact that he's living the life everyone wants. His best friend, a writer that he's funding (Jason Lee), bemoans how pathetic his life is compared to David's, and then brings a date named Sofia (Penelope Cruz) to David's birthday party, only to have her promptly stolen from him by his best friend. Of course, The Cruizes gettin' after it makes Diaz a bit jealous, and we discover she's a psycho when she runs her car off a bridge with David in it with her. She dies, he's disfigured and completely screwed up about it. He gets a big 'ain't my life shitty' chip on his shoulder, starts to actually work and begins to crave Sofia, who after being initially creeped out by him, decides to take him in and be in love. Until David starts flipping out.

From there, it becomes 'freaky weird' and starts to attempt to be mind-blowing, but it doesn't ever quite get there. Crowe explains at the beginning of the DVD that it's a movie "meant to be watched closely, but you can also let it wash over you." It's hard to have it both ways. The more things get simplified to let those who don't want to put any effort into it grasp everything easily, the less of an effect any attempt at a true mindfuck will wind up having. This gives you a film with the psychological punch of a lazily-lobbed snowball.

Cruise, whom I am still upset with for the misery that was Mission: Impossible 2, is a bit more acceptable here, if only because there's actually something going ON in this movie other than lame love shenanigans and motorcycle chases. Jason Lee is Jason Lee again, and I'm not sure how long it will be before I'm sick of Jason Lee, but I'm not quite there yet. I'm not quite sure what the fascination with Penelope Cruz is, but she's adequate, and Cameron Diaz is a bit disturbing in that "make you deathly afraid of any relationships" way, and she's also got that weird "oddly unattractive yet still a bit alluring somehow" thing going, like she usually does.

Overall, though, it falls short of being a really involving head-trip, and just settles into being a mildly interesting secretly sci-fi thing. I dig the Crowe, and I hope he keeps taking risks, but you can't expect the first real departure for him to be without a hitch or two. Keep on tryin', Crowe, but don't abandon your roots, because them's good roots.

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