cameron crowe is an odd choice of director for this very straightforward remake of Alejandro Amenábar's Open Your Eyes. Amenábar has a dark sensibility, as can be seen in this year's The Others, while Crowe, writer-director of Almost Famous, Singles and Say Anything, is as close as American cinema has come to Truffaut, but without the New Wave auteur's morbid streak.
But when you remember that Crowe directed Tom Cruise to his last Oscar nomination in Jerry Maguire, the choice makes more sense.
Vanilla Sky (one of Crowe's working titles for Almost Famous, but he slips it into the dialogue here), like The Vanishing and Nightwatch, is a very faithful remake. Apparently designed for people who hate subtitles, it's also made for those who saw Open Your Eyes and thought, "I'd really like to see this with Penélope Cruz and Tom Cruise instead of some Spanish guy, and with Cameron Diaz as the evil temptress."
In Vanilla Sky, an arrogant, wealthy young man wakes up after a car accident to find that reality has started shifting around in unexpected ways. Like Sliding Doors, Me, Myself And I and Passion Of Mind, it belongs to a genre that some people take seriously called "cinema du Twilight Zone," where the twist is tied up with a nifty ironic bow.
As such, it's a movie you'll start to forget about 48 hours after watching it. This relatively painless experience is helped along by the glamour of the New York high life settings and the high-gloss performances. Diaz and Jason Lee are particularly good, and there's a cool Tilda Swinton cameo.
Vanilla sky written and directed by Cameron Crowe, from the screenplay Open Your Eyes by Alejandro Amenábar and Mateo Gil, produced by Tom Cruise, Paula Wagner and Crowe, with Cruise, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Jason Lee and Kurt Russell. 125 minutes. A Cruise-Wagner production. A Paramount release. Opens Friday (December 14). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 87. Rating: NNN