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"What is it that makes you happy?" the soon-to-be fatally frustrated Julie asks David. "Because this is what makes me happy, being with you." Seconds later, she steers her speeding car off an overpass, crashing head-on into a concrete embankment.
David is plagued by dreams. Nightmares, really. He’s not always sure where his nocturnal fantasies end and his day-to-day life begins. Moviegoers will be even less sure than he is. Just when you think you’ve pegged what’s what, Vanilla Sky’s dreamscape takes another turn. David is a playboy. A rich kid who inherited his father’s publishing empire. He’s always had everything he ever wanted. Even good looks. He never goes home from the party without the girl. But his easy life has led to lax living. And he’s used up one to many women for selfish ends. Julie is the last. He’s in the midst of falling for a new girl (Sofia) when Julie, frustrated and suicidally angry over his callousness, takes that fateful plunge. David survives the horrific wreckage, but barely. He’s badly mangled. His face and arm shattered beyond repair. And so is his life. His nightmares may now prove more inviting than what remains of his reality. That’s when what you thought was strictly an exploration into life, love, loss and destruction turns decidedly sci-fi.
positive elements: The film explores the idea of making a choice between the ethereal pleasantness of fantasy (dreams, all-consuming entertainment, etc.) and the harsh realities of real life. David’s best friend, Brian, points out several times that the beauty and luster of life is only truly appreciated when the bitterness and trials are also fully felt and experienced. The consequences of one’s actions are also given a nod, as is the idea that it’s never too late to make a fresh start ("Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around").
spiritual content: Moments before destroying their lives, Julie asks David if he believes in God (presumably because they are to meet Him shortly). Trying to dodge work responsibilities, David tells his secretary, "I don’t care if God calls, I’m very, very busy." Going into surgery, he sings Joan Osborne’s song, "One of Us."
sexual content: Intense and violent. [Spoiler Warning] Suffering from delusions and hallucinations, David climaxes an act of sexual intercourse with Sofia by forcibly smothering her to death (he sees her as Julie). Explicit sexual movement isn’t accompanied by nudity in this scene, but it is both visceral and prolonged. In an earlier sexual encounter, Sofia bares her breasts to the camera and David longingly wishes he could "live" inside a beauty mark located between them. The aftermath of a sexual encounter between David and Julie is shown. The two of them discuss their activities in obscene detail. Julie figures that if they have sex four times in a single night, that it should "mean something" between them. "Your body makes a promise whether you do or not," she yells. She’s right, of course, she’s just on the wrong side of the sheets to win much credibility. David and Brian exchange graphic and gratuitous comments about David’s sex life. Also, David is shown getting dressed, and a picture of Sofia shows her posing nude.
violent content: The car crash is brutal (but the car’s occupants are never shown). Far more explicit and troubling are scenes in which David ties up, brutalizes and ultimately kills Sophia (who appears as Julie). Elsewhere, David and Brian get into a pushing match. David angrily smashes a bottle against a wall. A suicide (by pills) is shown.
crude or profane language: The f-word is frequently used (about 40 times). Often it is used to refer to sex. The s-word is also used several times. Sofia exclaims, "Holy god, this is going to change my life in a zillion different ways." A photo shows a man making an obscene hand gesture. David’s nickname is an object generally associated with masturbation.
drug and alcohol content: Parties are for drinking in this movie. And drinking is for getting drunk. David, Brian, Sofia and Julie all get drunk at various times in the story. Jack Daniels. Martinis. Beer. They all claim quite a bit of screen time.
conclusion: Tight directing and clever twists make Vanilla Sky a colorful, surreal experience. What turns it black as night is a firmament full of obscenities, sexualized violence and murder, and glamorized alcohol abuse.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Tom Cruise as David Aames; Penélope Cruz as Sofia Serrano; Kurt Russell as Dr. Curtis McCabe; Cameron Diaz as Julie Gianni; Jason Lee as Brian Shelby