Truth in a Vanilla Sky

The clip above is the very ending of the movie Vanilla Sky, which is probably my second favorite movie to Inception. If you have time to watch it, I would recommend it but am issuing a spoiler alert, although if you haven’t seen the movie, the clip above should not ruin it as Vanilla Sky is one you must watch from start to finish. However, the end clip holds many philosophical and symbolic quotes that I have remembered throughout life, but today, another important meaning was evident.

Vanilla Sky is a movie about how one’s choices affect your entire life, and also goes into “lucid dreaming” (ironic that both of my favorite movies have to do with ‘reality not as it is’).

In the movie, David Aames (Tom Cruise) is a wealthy owner of a large publishing firm in NYC that he inherited from his father. He is a womanizer and leaves the operation of the business to the board of directors (who he dubs the 7 dwarfs), but is an integral part of the direction and vision. David’s former lover is Julianna “Julie” Gianni (Cameron Diaz) who is a model and singer – the “It Girl” who is referred to by David’s best friend Brian (Jason Lee) as his “dream girl”.

At a party that David is hosting, he meets Sofia (Penelope Cruz) of which they spend the night together and the inklings of love blossom. David decides after his night with Sofia that he is going to change his life. When he walks out of her apartment, Julie is in her car and offers him a ride as she had stalked him. Clearly emotional by David’s new love interest, Julie drives her car off a bridge by which she is killed and David’s face is permanently deformed.

David cannot come to grips with the idea of wearing the mask for the rest of his life and struggles with constant pain as a result of his injuries. Sofia and David begin a romantic relationship and David has his face surgically repaired despite being told it was impossible before.

During the course of life, David finds glitches occurring in his life, such as looking into a mirror and seeing his distorted face. He is even told at a bar that he can control the world and everyone in it if he wanted to. These hallucinations keep getting worse to the point where David sees Julie in his bed and suffocates her, although he really suffocated Sofia. David is then arressted and placed in a mental institution, finding his face has reverted to its previously disfigured state.

David tells his story to Dr. Curtis McCabe (Kurt Russell), his phycologist while in jail,  where he remembers a TV advertisement for Life Extension, a company that freezes people after their death until a cure for their ailment is available in the future, keeping their brain active by placing them in a lucid dream state. In David’s case, a glitch had occurred that had rendered his lucid dream a nightmare.

In real life, David had opted for Life Extension’s services after struggling with his breakup with Sofia and his disfigurement, and after securing the publishing company to its associates, proceeded to kill himself with a drug overdose.

Life Extension preserved his body and, as David directed, put him into his lucid dream starting from the drunken night when Sofia left him, under the “vanilla sky” from a Monet painting.

In the end, David had to make a choice: either to be reinserted into the corrected lucid dream, or return to the real world by taking a literal leap of faith off the roof of a 20+ story building that will wake him from his sleep.

Conquering his final fear, David jumps off the building, his life flashing before his eyes, and whites out immediately before hitting the ground. A female voice commands him to “open your eyes” (a recurring theme in the movie), and the film ends with David opening his eyes, telling her she will see him in another life when they are both “cats”.

I have officially decided that every movie I like has some-what depressing romantic endings. If we look at Inception, Vanilla Sky, Butterfly Effect, (and I could go on). In contemplation of this, it occurred to me that movies I was “attracted” to, were ones in which the main character had to grow in some way. In Inception, Cobb needed to determine his reality and release Mal. In Vanilla Sky, David had choose to stay dreaming or wake up. In Butterfly Effect, Evan had to change his history to save Kayleigh. In short, all of these movies, define love as an action (i.e. Cobb recognizing that his portrayal of Mal was black and white when that was not who she was; Tom Cruise accepting fault for the reason he and Sophia could not be together in the reality by not treating Julia with much regard (although certainly does not excuse her action of driving off a bridge), etc).

These are all examples of not the romantic infatuation feeling, but the kind of love when you do something more for someone else than yourself. Don’t mistake that either – in all three of these movies, the leading males made the decision to benefit as well, but it was primarily focused on moving forward which paved the way for others to move forward.

And, of course, all three movies ended on the note of hope.

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