There is a strange story to this film. In 1997 there was the film “Abre Los Ojos” (“open your eyes”) of Alejandro Amenábar (best known for “Tesis”, the inspiration for “8MM”). Tom Cruise liked it so much that he wanted it in the USA, but since the film is in Spanish, he decided that an English version should be made. Since Amenábar had moved to Hollywood to make his first big film, he didn’t have time for “Vanilla Sky”. Cruise, however, decided to give Amenábar an extra chance by producing “The Others” (with Nicole Kidman who just broke with Cruise). Also Cruise produced “Vanilla Sky” and hired Cameron Crow (“Almost Famous”, “Jerry McGuire”) to make it.
“Vanilla Sky” is almost identical to “Abre Los Ojos” and Cruise is said to have said that he sees “Vanilla Sky” more as a ‘cover’ of “Abre…” than a remake. Of course there are different actors, different locations, etc. but mostly the rest is the same. There are some differences though, but I will leave it upto you to detect them.
The story is about a David Aames (names from “Vanilla Sky”, they are different) who has experienced nothing but luck in his life. He got the 51% of the stocks of his fathers publishing houses when his father died and David is massively popular under women, personell and associated companies. He does live ‘the easy way’ too much which brings him trouble sometimes, but there is actually no way how anybody could do him any harm.
David has a ‘fucking mate’ in the beautiful Cameron Diaz, but falls in love with Sofia (Penélope Cruz plays the same part in both films!!), when his best friend Brian brings her to his birthday party. David spends the night with Sofia and when he wants to go home, he is waited for by Julie (Diaz) who asks him for a ride. Julie drives the car off a bridge. She gets killed, David is extremely deformed when he comes out of his coma.
After this there is the stuggle of getting Sofia back, keeping his job, remaining friends with Brian and learning to live with his deformity. Eventually David does win the heart of Sofia back, keeps his job, but looses Brian, it seems…
The film is ‘told’ in a ‘reality’, a ‘real reality’, dreams and flashbacks and gets more and more confusing towards the end. I didn’t like the “Existenz”/”Matrix” type idea too much, but there is a massive atmosphere, great filming, good acting and fortunately Cruz is just as beautiful as in the original (I had fears about this, since among some films she did between “Abre…” and “Vanilla Sky” were a few in which she didn’t look that great) and this is definately the driving-factor of the film.
What is quite remarkable is that “Vanilla Sky” is just as good, if not better than “Abre Los Ojos” and left me with the same feeling. As mentioned, some elements are different, there is more explaining in the American version (of course, the mass audience doesn’t want to think) and the end of “Abre…” is more beautiful, but the filming, locations and atmosphere are in both films great. Also “Vanilla Sky” remained a strange and not everyday film and is actually still not for the big audience in my opinion, but it seems to do well.
And something that you may have heard, Cruise and Cruz fell in love during (or just before?) the shooting of this film. Some critics say that this doesn’t show at all, some say it does. I agree with the second group.
My advise: get “Abre Los Ojos” from the videostore and enjoy it (or even better, try and see it on the big screen) and go to see “Vanilla Sky” a week later. Prove that even a remake can be good and this is really an exception I think.