Directed by Cameron Crowe.
Written by Cameron Crowe. Based on the 1997 film "Abre Los
Starring Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz.
Release Year: 2001
Review Date: 12/14/01
You know what it is?
"Memento" is the best
film of 2001...and, I am spending my holiday season looking for a
film that can top it.
And, with only about two weeks to go, it
isn't looking good that something will top it. What made "Memento"
so good? I think I have finally figured it out. It isn't the way
that writer/director Christopher Nolan turns the narrative from back
to front (although, it is very cool to do it that way). It is the
efficiency of the storytelling. EVERY SINGLE SCENE matters in
"Memento", and your reward for watching the film as intricately as
possible is to be intrigued by following Guy Pearce through his
mysterious situation. I saw it in theaters twice, and for my money,
it was the best two hours I have spent in a movie theater this year.
So, coming into "Vanilla Sky"--as with any
December movie that has got a big hype machine--I was expecting
something bordering on very good. And, the film's set up is a good
one--young gun rich guy David Aames (Tom Cruise) is sleeping with
his friend Julie (Cameron Diaz) that he thinks is just some casual
action, but SHE thinks is the beginning of something truly special.
But, when she figures out that David might just be in love with
someone that he meets at his birthday party (Penelope Cruz), Julie
decides to go over the edge and show him what true love really is.
Now, to give more away would be criminal,
but it should be noted that all of the above takes place in the
first, oh, 45 minutes of the film's running time. The rest of the
film is what you really don't know about from watching the ads on
TV. And, this is where the film really gets into trouble.
The biggest problem with this movie? It
tries to tackle too many issues in its 130 minutes. Sure, there is
the fact that you don't really know what is going on until the end,
because they create all of it in the film's final two scenes.
(DON'T let anyone tell you that "they saw it coming" when you figure
out why everything is happening; you have some feeling that you
know, but you really could only know half of it because the
filmmakers just make up the full explanation out of thin air. Hate
that!) But, it's that you don't really care to know how this will
all come out after a while, because director Cameron Crowe takes too
long to tell us why...well, you'll see. Similar to
Drive" (a shocking winner of the Best Picture award with the New
York Film Critics earlier this week) in this respect, the setup is
very intriguing and "Vanilla Sky" gets its hooks into you very early
on and keeps them there for a while. But, the film overstays its
welcome and runs too long for you to really care anymore.
And, this is not the fault of the actors,
all of whom give great performances. Naturally, the best of them is
Jason Lee--a vet of all of Kevin Smith's Jersey films--as Cruise's
best friend, who is given all the best lines and all of the funny
ones. Cruz is hot, Diaz is crazy, and Kurt Russell lends quality
support as a psychologist that tries to help Cruise sort everything
out. Even Steven Spielberg shows up in a cameo.
Another interesting problem with "Vanilla
Sky"--its first sequence is its best. I believe that a film should
never have its best scene first, but in this film, maybe they didn't
think such a simple thing could be so interesting. But, when
Cruise's character stumbles upon a deserted Times Square in New York
City, it almost shocks you into submission, because you quietly
wonder how any film could force a shutdown of the most famous
downtown area in the world. And, the fact that no special effects
are used makes it even more amazing. I watched an interview with
Cruise last week about that scene, and he talked about how weird it
was standing in camera frame while looking around, and all you could
hear was the whirring of electronic screens, 500-foot TVs and ticker
boards. That would freak me out!
"Vanilla Sky" creates some interesting
questions...it just creates too many to address in the course of one
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard