Vanilla Sky

Ready to get metaphysical? Time for a wild ride, as Buttered Popcorn dives into the mysterious, exciting, poignant and disturbing world of Tom Cruise’s 2001 winter offering, Vanilla Sky

Smartass Summary: The one with the bomb soundtrack.

Slightly less smartass summary: Tom Cruise gets plastic surgery.

Ok ok, REAL summary: Guy with daddy issues learns who his true friends are.

Overall opinion:
Buttered Popcorn loves this movie! It’s full of drama, romance, and emotional intensity, and the plot has twists and turns that will make your jaw drop. You’re invited to follow David Aames (Jr.) through his “brilliant journey of self awakening”, during which he learns much – about himself, about his friends, about the nature of life and death. And it’s all framed by visually stunning scenes and absolutely amazing music! In other words – watch it!

Go ahead… We’ll wait. Here’s a handy link for you.

Seriously, because we’re gonna spoil it soon, so if you haven’t watched it yet, go on over, grab the movie and watch away.

Done? Great! Now, let’s get started!

***Spoilers beyond this point!***

Fun moments:
Vanilla Sky is intense, to say the least. But there are plenty of light moments that make us smile while we watch. Ironically, some of the plot points that cause the deepest emotions for us are also vehicles for some of the funniest moments. Here are some of our favorites:

“You will never know the exquisite pain of the guy who goes home alone.” Brian’s melodrama is HILARIOUS! (Sometimes…) Don’t get us wrong. We can imagine how frustrating it must be to have a millionaire bff who seems to be able to do know wrong, and is very attractive to the ladies. But SO much of Brian’s dialogue when it comes to this is contradictory and (frankly) kinda funny. David’s “friend-with-benefits” Julie Gianni is described as “my dream girl!” by Brian. Later, he brings Sofia Serrano to David’s birthday party, and she and David are attracted to each other immediately. Brian’s hurt (naturally), but he later says, “I’ve never said this to you about any girl, but she (Sofia) could be, could be, could be the girl of my fucking dreams!” Um… you’ve never said that before? Like… not this morning, when Julie was the girl of your dreams??? Oh YOU!

“RECLAIM your life!” Thomas Tipp, David’s company lawyer and long-time family friend, is FUN-NY. It doesn’t hurt that we first meet him when he’s smash drunk, and has just been fired from a family business that he cares deeply about. Sounds kinda depressing, but once you’ve seen him stagger into David and give him some very wise, slurry maxims, you won’t feel bad for long. It’s particularly funny and satisfying when David gives him his job back, and gives him a 50% raise and the biggest office he can give. (Told you there would be spoilers. Now, how can we get a 50% raise for ourselves??)

“I thought you were a vandal!” Okay. So when Julie beats David 10 ways from Sunday with a giant heavy book, then acts like she had no idea it was the person for whom she has developed an actual obsession?? Guys, that mess is HILARIOUS. Buttered Popcorn would like to note for the record, if Tom Cruise snuck into our house, we would know within 0.000000000001 seconds that he was not a prowler. And we haven’t even made love to him four times.

Deep Themes:
Well! There are so many deep themes in Vanilla Sky that we were almost afraid to write this review, lest we fail to do them justice. What can we say about this movie? Life, death, love, commitment, sex as commitment, the nature of the mind, the power of the subconscious, friendship, the bias of perception, wealth and power vs. happiness- we could go on! This movie is CHOCK-FULL of all the everythings! Buttered Popcorn takes our collective hats off to writer/director Cameron Crowe for managing to fit all this and more into a two hour movie, and do it in such a beautiful and masterful way.

We’re not quite so ambitious, so… we’re not even doing deep themes this time! You saw them, and we will leave you to pick them apart and ponder them while you’re watching this awesome movie the 4th, 5th, 12th time… Instead, we’re just going to talk about stuff that we feel like talking about. Enjoy reading our (probably massively long) opinions on stuff!

Cool things about this movie:

Use of unreliable narrator:

This movie is GREAT at using the unreliable narrator. Almost all of the narrators in Vanilla Sky are unreliable.

At David’s birthday party, his best friend Brian insists that he has never told David that ANY other girl could be his “dream girl”. But less than ten (IRL) minutes ago, we saw him tell David Julie Gianni was his dream girl. Brian, as a narrator, cannot be trusted. In fact, in case you may have forgotten how he talked about Julie, the writer gave us another big clue that Brian’s words (especially when drunk) should be taken with a grain of salt. In the same scene at the birthday party, Brian says, “I’m from Ohio”, and David replies – “You’re not from Ohio.” Brian is unreliable, so anything else he tells us in the movie is to be treated with suspicion.

David is another unreliable narrator. As we will eventually learn, he is actually unconscious for most of the film, and his subconscious mind is playing some very dirty tricks on him. One of our favorite quotes from the movie takes place in the interrogation room between David and McCabe.

McCabe: Can you tell the difference between dreams and reality, David?
David: Of course, can you?

And of course – who can? Sometimes you may be dreaming and realize that it’s a dream. But often, even the most ridiculous things can seem completely real and rational while you’re dreaming them. And yet, David is fully convinced that he knows what’s happening. He knows his face is still deformed, he knows where he is, he knows exactly what is happening to him. Even those little moments of doubt, where we can hear him mutter, “I feel like I’m dreaming”, are just hints – little puzzle pieces that we tend to ignore in favor of the parts of the story that make more sense.

The film’s use of unreliable narrators adds to the sense of mystery and (at times) downright confusion while watching. And it makes it a nice little challenge to keep your mind working while you watch. We love it!


The colors in this movie are so preeeettyyyyyy!!! Obviously, the vanilla sky is amazing. Looking at it when it first appears will make you wonder how you didn’t know this was a fantasy world all along. David’s house is AMAZING (although Buttered Popcorn is not sure of the advisability of a GIGANTIC portrait of your disapproving dad grinning at you for eternity, David. Just sayin’.) Even the wardrobes are nice. We noticed this time that David and Julie are both wearing red at the birthday party. (How long were you watching him, Julie?) This movie is SO amazing to watch. And every part is done well. The make-up that brings us post-accident David is realistic and painful to look at, which is a testament to its effectiveness. It’s like Brian’s always saying. The sweet is never as sweet until you’ve experienced the sour. (Or something like, he says it different ways, ok?)


Everybody who knows anything about this movie is usually floored by the soundtrack. It’s SO good. There are certain songs that we can’t listen to now, without thinking about Vanilla Sky. That’s how you do it, people! And the complete appropriateness of so many of the songs is what really makes it click, too. Think David going in for his surgery (after the splice) loudly singing “What if God Was One of Us”.

Favorite Quotes:

  • “People will read again!” (Thomas to David)
  • “Livin’ the dream, baby, livin’ the dream!” (David to Brian)
  • “Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around.” (Sofia to David)
  • Brian: “Can I tell you the truth?” David: “Everybody does.” (Brian and David)
  • “I swallowed your cum! That means something!” (Julie to David)
  • “Twenty-four hours a day I live with this aching possibility that you might call me to do something!” (Julie to David)
  • I didn’t want to see me. Okay? But then, I woke up today… and finally! A good hair day!” (David to Sofia)
  • Fuck my arm!!” (David to doctors)
  • “So it’s an aesthetic regenerative shield. […] Good. Because… for a minute there, I thought we were talking about a FUCKING MASK!!!!!” (David to doctors)
  • “Tech Suppoooooooooooooort!!! IT’S A NIGHTMAAAAAAAARE!!!!!!” (David to [duh] Tech Support)
  • “If this turns out to be a big mistake, I do have the ability to fall out of love with you like that!” (Sofia to David)
  • “Do you love me? I mean really love me? Because if you don’t, I’ll just have to kill you.” (Sofia to David)
  • “They laughed at Jules Verne, too.” (David and Rebecca)

Favorite Character: David Aames! Duh! But you know what? We have so many feelings about David that we are dedicating an entire post to him. Didn’t see that coming, didja? For now, let’s talk about our second favorite character: Thomas Tipp! Here’s some great things about Tommy Tipp:

  • He’s loyal. He has been part of the Aames publishing company for over a generation, and even though he’s seen the cut-throat ways first hand, he hasn’t given up on the people he loves. “I still believe in this family, David. Even if it’s only you.”
  • He’s a true friend. Edmund Ventura (Tech Support!) describes Brian as a “true friend”. We’re not saying he isn’t (though he has a lot of problems), but David’s real true friend is Thomas Tipp. He’s the only person in the movie who accepts David for who he is, while trying to help him improve at the same time. He has friends who tell him to pull it the fuck together, take off the mask, go back to the old guy “because the new guy is shit”. Tommy is the one who tells him, I love you, here’s how you can make changes and beat these other jerks. He even tells David, “Learn to be an asshole!” Hm. Did someone just say David isn’t an asshole? Yes, they did.

Behind the Scenes Trivia:

    • Nancy Wilson (of Heart) wrote the score for Vanilla Sky. (If only we could find a copy!!)
    • When Sofia and David are at the club after David’s accident, David walks up on her telling a blonde club-goer about how David’s face looks. This club-goer is played by William Mapother, Tom’s cousin!
    • David’s penthouse is actually modeled after the Dakota – the apartment where John Lennon lived the last days of his life. They were not allowed to film inside, so the apartment had to be recreated on a set, but the fly-over view at the beginning of the film shows the actual building. It was in front of the Dakota that John was killed.
    • At the start of the movie, when David wakes up with Julie Gianni, her cell phone ringtone is “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” but at the moment she answers the call and the music stops, the next lyric would have been “Life is but a dream”. (From IBDb)

Pic Spam! Here’s a bunch of pics we liked! (We capped them all ourselves!)

People will READ again!
The face of despair.
The face of fear
Everything’s okay now. Right?

Watchability level: HIGH!
Buttered Popcorn recommends that you watch this movie! It’s stunning, it’s poignant, it’s beautiful in many ways. It evoked every emotion that it intended to invoke, without making us feel like we were being manipulated. It’s the best!!

Re-watchability level: HIGH!
With a plot twist like this, you have to watch this movie again. In fact, it’s a really fun game to go back through and look at all the references to dreaming that the film makes. This movie has been very well crafted, and there are little hints you can easily miss at first glance, as well as huge blatant references that make you wonder how you didn’t notice what was happening before. This movie deserves not one, not two, but many re-watchings, and Buttered Popcorn is willing to bet you will find something new every time. We did, when re-watching for this review, and we’ve literally seen the movie more times than we can count!

Final Verdict: Vanilla Sky is AMAZING! Amazing is good!
So!  Melt that butter, pop that popcorn, and prepare to have yourself a haunting, emotional, triumphant, visually stunning, just-plain-awesome time!  And when you’re all done here, please head on over and check out our David Aames Character Study – the first, but certainly not the last of its kind!

2 thoughts on “Vanilla Sky”

  1. Great review! This is one of the Tom Cruise movies I have not seen yet. I’ve heard good things about this movie. But after reading your review, I’m planning on checking out this movie soon. 🙂

    1. Thanks, that’s great to hear!! I’m so glad that you will check it out, it’s really a great movie, lots of visual interest. I think the director did a great job, and Tom’s performance was REALLY great in this! I like that he can play vulnerable roles.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.