Based on the Spanish movie "Abre Los Ojos" ("Open Your Eyes"), Director Cameron Crowe, jazzes up the movie Hollywood-style with better special affects than the original, lays down a great soundtrack which is introduced nearly flawlessly throughout the movie, and of course the setting changes from Madrid in the original to Manhattan in Vanilla Sky. Penelope Cruz plays in both the original and in Vanilla Sky. Tom Cruise plays the lead - hard to imagine a better choice for this character than Tom Cruise!
David Aames (Tom Cruise) is a wealthy, carefree bachelor who owns and runs a magazine publishing company, left to him by his deceased father. Aames cruises through life with no cares, no responsibilities - "living the dream," as he says. Aames has casual and how he puts it "intricate" relationships with women, with no real strings attached. His latest conquest is Juliana Giani (Cameron Diaz), but David is to unaware of others feelings to realize that Juliana is in love with him.
On David's birthday, he throws himself a birthday party held at his fabulous Manhattan condo. It is here that David meets Sofia Serrano (Penelope Cruz) who is escorted to the party by David's best friend, Brian. There is instant attraction between David and Sofia and Brian soon realizes that David has stolen away his girl - "the one girl I really wanted" Brian says. David is too wrapped up into his own world and happiness to worry about anyone else's, even his best friend.
David and Sofia end up leaving the party together and go back to Sofia's apartment where they spend the evening sharing each other's company, talking, flirting, but stop short of sleeping with one another. As David leaves her apartment he is buzzing with excitement about his life and about meeting Sofia. Waiting for him outside is Juliana, who had followed him away from the party and has been waiting for him. She invites David along for a casual sexual encounter again, and David pauses a moment, but then gets in the car with Juliana.
Once in the car, Juliana begins to confront David about his behavior. She is enraged that he not only did not invite her to his party, but that he left with another girl. "When you sleep with someone, your body makes a promise to that person, even if you don't," Juliana says. Juliana's rage increases and she begins to drive recklessly. Juliana tells David she loves him. In order to pacify her, David tells her he loves her too and asks her to stop the car so that they can talk about it. But Juliana speeds the car up and drives off an overpass and slams into a concrete wall below the overpass.
Juliana is killed (apparently), but David survives the crash. However, David's once good looks are now gone, as his face is horribly disfigured. Because David is in a coma for several weeks after the crash, the doctors can not operate on his face and so his face is "doomed" to remain in its disfigured condition. David's doctors fit him with a custom made mask that is equally bizarre looking as the disfigurement to his face - a la Phantom of the Opera!
During the movie, David is narrating the storyline as he is sitting in prison speaking to his prison psychologist about the events that have unfolded to lead him into his incarceration. It is not initially clear as to the circumstances surrounding David's incarceration, although it is mentioned that he has been incarcerated for murder.
Some weeks after surviving the crash, David gets up his nerve to go see Sofia. He follows her to her dance studio. Sofia is shocked when she sees the disfigurement to his face and is clearly uncomfortable with how he looks. David asks her if she will go out with him that weekend, and Sofia reluctantly agrees.
David shows up at the nite club where Sofia has agreed to meet him, but David is surprised to see that Brian is there with Sofia. Brian tells him that Sofia asked him to meet her there. Sofia is obviously uncomfortable with David and no longer attracted to him since he has become disfigured in the accident. After a rather funny scene of David doing shots with the bartender, and Sofia doing her best to ignore David, all 3 of them leave the bar. Sofia blows off David, telling him "so, we'll meet up soon" and she runs off from David. Brian also leaves, telling David that since his accident everyone misses the old David, because "the new guy, is shit!" After a few seconds on the street alone, David runs after Sofia. He catches up to see her and Brian kissing outside of her apartment. David collapses onto the rainy street crying.
The next morning, David awakes on the street, awoken by Sofia. Sofia tells David that she wants to be with him, but she expects him to work to improve his attitude and behavior since the accident - "you have to pull it the fuck together!" she tells him. With Sofia's help, David begins to improve his attitude and after repeated surgeries by the doctors he begins to look better. This is your first clue that something is "amiss" in the movie, since it was earlier explained by the doctors that David could not have operations on his face due to his being in a coma - the technology for this type of surgery did not exist.
After spending some time recouperating with Sofia, David gets his face back to normal, and gets his life back together. Sofia and David sleep with one another and it appears that they have fallen completely in love with each other. This is where things begin to get weird, to say the least! The plot can not be described from here on out without giving away the suspense and twist to the movie, but suffice it to say that you soon realize that what you thought was happening was not actually happening. And the lines between reality and fantasy become blurred like no other movie ever has attempted before!
The end is a mix of a magnificent twist and an opportunity to analyze your own views of life, reality, fantasy and love!
Analysis: (Contains Spoilers!)
David is a symbol of the trendy, superficial meaningless life that wealthy American society tends to produce. David has a nice car, fantastic condo, nice clothes, a pretty girl that he sleeps with whenever he wants (Juliana), no attachments, owns a successful magazine publishing company that he inherited from his father (so he even had no part in building it), and shows up to work basically when he feels like it. The Board of Directors and others run the company, David just reaps all the benefits! The only "check" in David's life is the Board of Director's (the "Seven Dwarfs") and he resents them for this!
Karma - it is Karma that deals David a blow, by disfiguring him in the car crash. Disfigured, David can no longer rely on his good looks to cruise through life. Karma not only punishes David in this manner, but also gets even with David for treating Juliana in the manner that he did; and shows David how cruel superficiality can be when Sofia shows no interest in David after his face is disfigured. But even after David's accident, he can not see that his behavior had consequences. And it is his behavior that led him into the predicament that he finds himself in. He blames all of it on what he believes to be a conspiracy by the Seven Dwarfs to take control of his company. Ironically, the only real good thing we see David do before his accident, is to save the job of his family attorney (Tom), by keeping him on staff, giving him a 50% raise and "the corner office." This good deed is later repaid, because it is Tom who later in the story keeps the company in David's control, wresting it away from the Board of Directors.
David's best friend, Brian, likely told Juliana that David referred to her as his "fuck buddy." When David confronts him about this outside the nightclub, his friend denies it, but quickly averts his eyes from David's glances, seemingly indicating that he is lying. Why would Brian do this? Brian was jealous of David, jealous of his lifestyle and of stealing away Sofia. It is Brian telling Juliana that David thinks of her only as his "fuck buddy" that set Juliana over the edge! The irony here is that David steals Sofia away from Brian, but Brian gets even (though not apparently intentionally) by telling Juliana of how David feels about her, and then it is Juliana of course that causes David's disfigurement. This is consistent with one of the main themes or lessons from the movie - consequences of one's actions. The "tech support" character at the end of the movie of course emphasizes this to David, consequences for one's actions. We also see this represented in the choices that David makes. Remember after David leaves Sofia's apartment, he is approached by Juliana who had followed him there and has waited for him to come out. She asks him to get into the car with her, with the "bait" being another no-strings sexual encounter. David pauses for a moment, but then makes the decision to get into the car with Juliana. Had he not chosen to get into the car with her, it is conceivable that he of course would not have been disfigured (assuming that Juliana didn't do him in on some other occasion!) and the relationship with Sofia would have continued. But it is not only David's lack of sense of consequences for behavior but also his callousness for the beginning of the relationship with Sofia and his callousness for the feelings of Juliana. Here we see a variance from what David tells Sofia in her apartment (there is a clear beginning to "them" as a couple) but yet he is willing to go off with Juliana for what one would guess would be one last "fling."
Sofia is shown to be as superficial as David is. Sofia is no longer attracted to David after his accident. Though she apparently saw the opportunity for love to bloom after the initial meeting that nite of the party, since his face is disfigured, she never sees David again after leaving him at the nightclub. She does attend the 3-day "celebration of his life" thrown by his friend, Brian, but one would believe that this was not so much to grieve the loss of David as it was to grieve the loss of the love that could have bloomed had he not became disfigured in the accident. This type of superficiality is a concurrent theme throughout the movie, and in each instance, this superficiality ends up punishing the individual that acts in this manner. Though the movie focuses mostly on David's superficiality and the consequences of his behavior, we do see Sofia being punished as well. She rejects David after the accident because he is no longer aesthetically pleasing to the eye, yet we see that she never gets over loosing him. Because Sofia can not see David beyond the pretty face that she was attracted to, she is punished with grief and never sees David again after the nite at the nightclub. When she attends David's wake at his apartment, thrown by his friend, we see a sad and despondent Sofia.
Themes and Clues:
Notice the emphasis of beauty in fantasy over that of reality. The beautiful love scenes that take place between David and Sofia (other than the first nite they spend together at her apartment) are all in David's fantasy. In reality, Sofia is not the wonderful love of David's life that stands by him and helps him back on his feet, his "savior" as "tech support" points out. In reality, Sofia has nothing to do with David after the accident. I believe that the writer in this case is attempting to show how cruel reality can be as compared to how compassionate it should be, as it is in the fantasy world of David's mind.
There is also of course the psychological evaluation offered by the psychologist, McCabe, in the movie (Kurt Russell). McCabe tells David that his subconscious played a trick on him because he treated Juliana carelessly, and therefore in his mind, when he was enjoying being with Sofia, the guilt turned Sofia into Juliana. David's guilt, even while in his fantasy, his subconscious punishes him for the guilt felt over treating Juliana poorly by having David believe that he has killed Sofia. Of course in reality David hasn't killed Sofia or Juliana - but rather it is his own death that he relives. Again this ties back into the theme of consequences for one's actions. David can not even enjoy his own fantasy without being punished by his own subconscious because of how poorly he treated Juliana in his real life.
Notice that in the opening scene when David awakes (in the dream where he drives through a deserted Manhattan), that it is Sofia's voice that tells him "open your eyes" - even though he has not met her yet. Also, if you listen closely, you can hear sounds of the "computer program" loading when David awakes on the street to Sofia's touch - remember that this is where the "splice" or the "lucid dream" begins for David. This is also the first scene we see where strange things begin to happen - we see Sofia's face, followed quickly be Juliana saying "boo!" It seems already that David's subconscious is punishing him (only seconds after the lucid dream begins).
When David is in jail and is visited by his attorney, there is a bell going off that seems oddly out of place. Later in the movie, when David is at LE, he runs out into the lobby calling for "tech support!" you hear a similar bell sound - it is the tech support person "arriving" in the elevator. What do you take as the meaning of this? Was tech support trying to visit David during his initial incarceration for beating Sofia (or Juliana as David sees it), in an effort to calm him down or warn him? Remember that it is after leaving the jail cell, that he goes to Sofia's apartment and then ends up killing her in his lucid dream.
Notice that Sofia refers to David as a "pleasure delayer" when she meets him on that first nite. When he is getting up to leave from her apartment, she refers to him as a "pleasure delayer." She also later refers to him in this manner when he goes to her apartment, after he is attacked in her apartment by Juliana, Sofia is in the bathroom and comes out to greet him, she refers to him as a "pleasure delayer." Remember that David refers to himself as a pleasure delayer early in the movie when he is speaking with his psychologist. What is the significance of Sofia knowing this and referring to him as this? Did he tell it to her or did she come up with the term for him, and it is this term that he then relays to his psychologist to describe himself?
In the beginning of the movie, when David is being interviewed by his psychologist, when the guard comes out to "confront" David about raising his voice, when the guard leaves he says "I'm going to get you daddy's boy." McCabe then asks David if it is true that he was a daddy's boy, and David responds "Primer. I'm David Aames Senior." However, David is not David Aames Senior, he is David Aames Junior. What do you make of this? Simply a movie slip? Was Tom Cruise suppose to say "David Aames Junior" and accidentally said David Aames Senior and no one caught it in editing? Or was it a slip of Cruise's character, David? A Freudian slip I believe it would be called in psychological terms. Any significance to this? I think it is pretty clear that David seemed overshadowed by his father and never felt that he lived up to his father's expectations - hence the non-descript description of him as a boy in his father's book. And in the commentary by Cameron Crowe on the DVD, Crowe recalls a scene that was edited out when Sofia and David are at her apartment and she says to him that he lives within the shadow of his father. So it doesn't seem as though David would actually think of himself as David Aames Senior given the fact that he doesn't live up to his father's expectations, nor apparently even try. Incidentally, this is also emphasized by David's fear of heights - David mentions that his father never got over David having a fear of heights. Also, what is the psychological significance of David having a fear of heights? How is this related to his not living up to his father's expectations?
David's dream of the Ferrari GTO - I love the fact that a guy that is obviously very wealthy and owns his own successful business, still has a dream about a car that is most likely out of his reach. The Ferrari is a GTO model, 1962 or 1963 I believe, and there were only 40 ever produced. They are agrueably the most sought after collector's Ferrari, if not the most sought after collector's car, and thus the price tag on them is typically in the millions! So the significance of David dreaming of driving a Ferrari is interesting, because it is probably one of the few cars that is actually out of David's grasp (or price range). For those of us who drive Nissans, we probably would dream of a Porsche - but David, much wealthier than us (and easily able to afford a Porsche), dreams of the Ferrari GTO. Of course, I don't understand why he would drive a classic Mustang in real life - I know that they are a popular classic car, but come on! The deeper meaning of this I believe to be to show that no matter how much you have, materially, you always want more. If you drive a Nissan, you dream of a Porsche; if you can already afford a Porsche, you dream of the Ferrari GTO!
If you are the type that likes to look at little clues displayed in the movie, you should check out what is written on the blackboard when David and his psychologist are in the prison speaking. I won't give them all away, but written on the blackboard is MAERD - "dream" spelled backwards. And there is a Martin Luther King poster on the wall which reads "I Have A Dream." You will need the DVD in order to see these clues, unless you can zoom with your VCR.
Religious Themes: there are of course many examples of religious themes throughout the movie. Sofia's t-shirt she has on at the club "St. Rose" - patron saint of vanity; there is the title to David's father's book - "Defending the Kingdom"; David was 33 when he died - same as Jesus Christ; David took his life on December 26th - day after Christmas; the reference to the "celestial sky" at the end of the movie; and countless others. I particularly like the references that the psychologist McCabe makes to the limitation of time: "you understand David that our time is limited." And "time is not our friend", and "I would work on this case forever if I could...." - there is a prevailing theme here that our time in this world is limited and that it is important for us to find the meaning and purpose of life in this reality. It is not about acquiring the best car you can or about bedding as many women as you can. And that it is possible to waste your life by pursuing such things. And that it is possible to make the wrong choices that have devastating consequences.
SO WHAT WAS THE REAL ENDING??? - this is open to interpretation of course! If you listen to the commentary by director Cameron Crowe on the DVD, he explains that as he invisioned the movie, that the real meaning and plot to the movie is as the tech support character explained it. That David was involved in the car crash, that David did take his own life, that David choose for the "lucid dream" to begin the morning after the nite club, and that in the end David chooses to live a real life and leaves the lucid dream (and Sofia) behind. This is how Cameron Crowe invisioned the plot when he filmed the movie, and it is incidentally the plot that I too like best. However, others have offered other possible interpreations and endings. For instance, some have suggested that the entire movie was David's dream - from the opening of the movie until the end when his eye opens. Although I think this is a plausible interpretation, the director does state that the voice at the end of the movie telling David to open his eyes, is not the voice of Juliana or Sofia - but the nurse awaking him from his lucid dream so that he can being his real life, 150 years in the future.
Some have pointed out (and Cameron Crowe points it out as well) that the sticker on the windshield of David's Mustang shows 02/30/2001, and since there is no February 30th, that this must indicate that the entire sequence was a dream (remember that in the scene where he is driving the Mustang, it is supposendly not a dream). However, the director points out in the commentary that this simply was a mistake by the prop person that mistakely put 02/30. Do you believe that this was simply a "movie mistake?" Mistakes certainly do happen with props on the set.
In support of the "dream hypothesis", others have indicated that the fact that it is Sofia's voice at the opening of the movie during David's dream (the initial scene where he is driving the Ferrari through Manhattan) that this must indicate that the entire movie was a dream because David had yet to meet Sofia - so how could he dream about her voice? However, I prefer to think that this is part of the "magical beginning" that Sofia and David have. One reason that he is so struck by her at the party is that her voice is familiar to him as the voice that awoke him in his dream.
Another theory is that everything up until the accident is real, and then David is in a coma, and the rest of the movie is David dreaming in his coma. Plausible - but why would you opt for this version rather than the version offered by the plot and by the director of the movie? I think people who like the "coma theory" do so because it is easier to grasp someone being in a coma as opposed to understanding the lucid dream, and the idea of the "splice."
And one that Cameron Crowe pointed out on the DVD that I previously had not heard was the idea that the whole story is Brian's book coming to life. That Brian is writing the story of his life and of his friend's David's life. I think some of you are reaching here!
I guess it all boils down to whether you accept what the plot of the story lays down - do you believe the circumstance pointed out by the tech support character or do you believe that he was simply part of a dream or part of a book written by Brian. I think this is one of the things that makes this movie interesting - that it is open for debate. Although I do have a theory as to why people prefer the alternate versions of the storyline. Generally speaking, as humans we have difficulty facing our own failures and losses in life. In the movie, David makes a fateful choice (getting in the car with Julie) that leads to his disfigurement and ultimately costs him his love with Sofia. Because of this, David takes his own life - he never sees Sofia again. I believe that this is a little too much "reality" for some people. And they don't like to see a love relationship gone awry in this manner, so the alternate theories of it all being just a dream, or it is a dream within a coma, or that it is all a book of fiction, appeals to those types of people that have difficulty accepting failure and loss and consequences of one's actions.
Personally, I'd like to see a Vanilla Sky 2 (although lets hope no one would actually title it as such!) - whereby David is living in the future, living his new life, he comes into contact with Sofia in the future (though they both are not cats!) and maybe toward the end of the movie, we throw Juliana in there in a suprise scene or suprise ending as "the bitch that wouldn't die!"
Vanilla Sky Links
Download Vanilla Sky Screensavers (2 available) - #2 is much better in my opinion!
For More Clues, Theories, and Movie Trivia - Check out Greg Mariatti's Website for Vanilla Sky