ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  cameron crowe

RATED  -  r

GENRE  -  biography

LENGTH  -  135 minutes

RELEASED  -  14 december 2001

DISTRIBUTOR  -  paramount pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  vanilla sky

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $68,000,000
vanilla sky - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from vanilla sky at

buy the dvd from vanilla sky at

a successful publisher finds his life taking a turn for the surreal after a car accident with a jaded lover.

the scene with tom cruise alone in times square is not computer enhanced. the production was given unprecedented permission to shut down times square for one sunday.


picture from vanilla sky

picture from vanilla sky

picture from vanilla sky


one out of four possible stars

In the beginning, this film requires of its viewer a lot of patience. But the reward at the conclusion is anything but sufficient. Becoming increasingly incoherent after each reel change, this film dives into the deep end of the celluloid and drowns soon after the opening credits. Unimpressive performances and a story-line which fans of David Foster Wallace would find complex, Vanilla Sky's mission is to cause the viewer to exit the theater after viewing the film with some sense of wonder.

But sadly, it just gets too damn confusing. Or, rather, confusing enough to make what happens to the characters not that important. When you finally digest what this picture is about, you realize that too much emphasis was placed on the plot of the film and that the characters weren't really given a chance. No one grows emotionally in this film. Everyone is some sort of mystery whose secrets are all revealed in the end with a climax that kind of makes you go "oh." But not oh in a good way. Oh, as in "that's it?" Because this movie is in the thriller/mystery genre, you've got to expect that you're going to get one of those Scooby Doo type endings where all-is-revealed by one of the characters in a five or six minute tell all.

In Vanilla Sky, the explanation is revealed quite eloquently by one of the characters in a final scene which in and of itself is quite interesting. But, placed with the rest of the film, it doesn't quite match. For much of the story, the focus is on a psychological type story line that is supposed to be weird and mind-bending. But then at the end, the film takes a complete 180 and changes direction so drastically that the ending is not only implausible, but all the more unbelievable. Sure, film drops those hints native to the mystery genre which, at the end, make more sense, but the explanation is just too far out there.

And the ending isn't the only place in the film whose construction is questionable. Amongst some areas of pretty interesting s**t, the viewer has to sit through several minutes of screen time that is stale and unproductive. Call it time-to-admire-the-pretty-faces, but there several spots in the film where absolutely nothing is happening. The viewer has to wait patiently for the next "reveal" or the next piece of plot to be flashed up on the screen. like I said, this film takes a lot of patience. It runs twenty minutes over two hours and excepting one car crash, there are no epic battle sequences and no huge fires (i.e. action scenes) that require this long running time.

Perhaps if the pace of the film had matched something like the recently released training day, its running time would have been forgivable. But there were just too many areas where the editor could have taken up the whip and cut some of the dead time out.

but this shortcoming could have rectified if the talent present in the film had possessed a little bit more talent. The characters themselves were interesting, but it's like the camera served more as a instrument to show off a few beautiful faces than reveal some deep character flaws. Though I can't be critical of all the actors in this film. Kurt Russell gave a solid though not ground breaking performance as the psychologist who treats Tom Cruise.

Russell's dialogue was sometimes a little cliche, but he was able to work through this flaw and give one of the most interesting performances in the film. Another small role that caught my eye was that of Noah Taylor's performance as the mysterious "Edmund Ventura." With a long series of small yet powerful roles on his resume, Taylor gives another good performance in this film.

But I can't be so complimentary to the main stars in this film. Tom Cruise gave his usual performance as Tom Cruise. Which isn't always a bad thing.

Cameron Diaz gave a somewhat better performance as Tom's insane girlfriend (or is he insane???). And Penelope Cruz showed that she still has no command of the english language and is still unable to present herself convincingly in that language. Ironically, the one moment in the film where her character is better than usual is when, in a spurt of Spanish dialogue reminiscint of Desi Arnaz playing Ricky Ricardo, she yells at Tom Cruise's character. She is emotional and realistic and even though I had no idea what the words coming out of her mouth meant, I knew exactly what she was trying to say.

It is possible that with more experience with the english language, Penelope will become a more convincing actress, but as of the present and as of this performance, she has yet to make any sort of impact. So, taken as a whole, vanilla sky has some mildly successful performances to its credit but a story so challenging and an ending so removed from the original spirity of the story that it really can't be taken seriously. It's like the train derailed at the end of the second act in this film and decided to become a boat and cross a river.

The beginning of the film bears no resemblance to the end and because of that it seems like the director here (or perhaps it was the writers) was unable to make the whole thing convincing. Its just a bunch of bits and pieces of people dressed in stylish clothes against the backdrop of a film that tries to be an entertaining thriller, but succeeds only in confusing the viewer. And that's not confusing in a good way, either. Who edited this film together in such a confusing manner? In truth, the creative poster for this film is perhaps its best element.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

content 2000 - - ninth symphony films - photographs paramount pictures 2001
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