Without the bitter, the sweet ain’t as sweet
Following the rock music opus of Almost Famous, director Cameron Crowe next turned his attention to remaking something that pal Tom Cruise had recently acquired the rights to: Spanish thriller ‘Abre los Ojos’ (Open Your Eyes). Never one to do the expected, Crowe delivered what he called a ‘cover version of a great song’ rather than a straightforward remake.
To explain too much of what takes place during the course of the film would be to let the cat out of the bag – but suffice to say it deals with themes of romance, death, dreams and fear, all bundled together in what Kurt Russell’s shrink McCabe jokingly calls ‘Infotainment’. Cruise is David Aames, a cocksure magazine publisher left the keys to the kingdom by his disinterested, deceased father.
He’s the kind of good-looking guy who gets the girls without trying; something that best friend Brian (Jason Lee) is constantly irritated by, particularly when he brings date Sophia (Penelope Cruz) to David’s birthday party and she instantly falls in love with him. David’s casual squeeze Julie Gianni (Cameron Diaz) has her nose put out of joint by Sophia and later, in a fit of jealousy, gives David a ride that ends with her driving the car off a bridge.
Does David survive the crash or not? Is he left horribly disfigured, or is it simply his guilt over Julie’s death playing tricks on him? The fact that Julie turns up one day in Sophia’s apartment, claiming that she’s Sophia and always has been doesn’t help David’s sanity too much either.
Crowe has taken the interesting core idea from Open Yours Eyes and created a much more meaty and, ultimately, sad tale about people taking things for granted. Upon its release, critics were quick to label Vanilla Sky as another Tom Cruise vanity project (not surprising after the awful M.I:2 the year before), but it’s actually quite the opposite: Cruise spends a large portion of the film with a heavily scarred face and a shattered arm that leaves him with a Frankenstein lumber.