This weekend people will be excitedly seeing the remake/re-adaptation of Philip K Dick’s We Can Remember It For You Wholesale (aka Total Recall). Like most of Philip K Dick’s book the movie asks the ever popular question “What is Reality”
One of my favorite movies to pitch this question was Vanilla Sky, Cameron Crowe’s remake of the (admittedly superior) spanish film Open Your Eyes. The first time I heard of this movie was in Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman (my favorite book ever). In the chapter “The Awe-Inspiring Beauty of Tom Cruise’s Shattered Troll-like Face”, Klosterman recalls a particularly rough night of digestial issues forcing him to read a review of the movie in an old issue of Entertainment Weekly.
Klosterman basically says exactly what I’d end up thinking about the movie; that question of What is Reality? “might be the only valid reason for loving it”.
The movie follows Tom Cruise (his name in the movie is David Aarmes but let’s face it, he’s Tom Cruise… just a owner of a publishing firm instead of an actor). Tom Cruise fills his day with booze and casually banging Julie (Cameron Diaz). However when his best friend Brian (Jason Lee) brings Sofia (Penelope Cruz) to a party he falls head over heels in love.
The film is intercut with David in a prison cell wearing an emotionless mask being interviewed by Dr. Curtis McCabe (Kurt Russell). Apparently he’s being charged for murder. We are hearing David’s version of the events that took place.
It seems Julie can’t take David moving on to a new girl and drives them off a bridge. Julie dies in the crash while David survives but is left horribly disfigured. David begins hiding behind an emotionless mask (the one we’ve seen him wearing in the prison) and getting plastered to deal with the pain.
Sofia tries to bring David out of his slump and eventually motivates David to have his face repaired. Things are great for David until reality starts to slip away. David continues seeing his deformed face, Sofia continually turns into Julie. Eventually David attempts to suffocate Julie only to discovered his murdered Sofia instead.
David sees a commercial for Life Extension and requests Dr. Curtis take him to the offices as he finds them important to the case. There David is explained about the Lucid Dream program which allows someone to live in a continuous dream state until a cure for their sickness is found.
David realizes he’s in his own lucid dream and has been for 150 years.
Critics hated this movie. Rotten Tomatoes has a 40% rating which is second lowest in Crowe’s career (just above Elizabethtown… another future Guilty Pleasure). I feel like the attack on this movie has more to do with Tom Cruise than the movie itself.
This was released in 2001. By this point Tom Cruise had produced 6 movies (and starred in 3 of them). All the critics refer to the movie as Tom Cruise’s ego-trip and a vanity project. The fact is that very little of the plot line has changed from the spanish original (including Cruz playing Sophia in both films).
It seems like Hollywood likes to pretend that Tom Cruise has gone crazy. Rewatch some of his interviews in the 90’s, he’s always been crazy. However, around 2000 he started producing more and more of his own movies. When he started to not need the Hollywood system anymore; suddenly he’s crazy.
I think Vanilla Sky was the unfortunate victim of being releases at the beginning of a media attack on a public figure. The movie isn’t perfect (the original however is) but it’s still a solid movie. 2001 was a year filled with uninteresting blockbusters like Planet of The Apes and Zoolander (yeah I said it).
Crowe and Cruise followed the original plot line closely while interjecting elements of themselves. At the end of the day the film is successful in causing us to question our reality and making a film filled with emotional moments.
Plus the movie makes you believe that Penelope Cruz is far more fuckable than Cameron Diaz (kudos Mr. Crowe). Give this remake another shot before you go see this weekend’s (sure to be blockbuster) remake and this time Open Your Eyes.