The Vow

| February 15, 2012

Although I get a review out of it (thus making the experience a humanitarian effort), I take great pride in knowing I’m one of the rare men comfortable enough with their masculinity to see a movie like The Vow. If its premise—the “true” (at least by Hollywood’s standards) story of love and the lengths some people would go to reclaim it—hasn’t made clear that this is a drama made for the women, the gratuitous close-ups of Channing Tatum’s bod will. Surprisingly, it’s directed by a male newcomer named Michael Sucsy, who, unfortunately, wouldn’t spot his fellow man a favor by also including the same indulgent shots of the female lead, Rachel McAdams.

Scribed by Jason Katims, Abby Kohn, and Marc Silverstein, this romantic footnote chronicles Paige (McAdams) and Leo (Tatum), a young couple tested by unfortunate circumstances. After a car accident, the former wakes up with memory loss. As a result, she forgets her husband, but remembers an old engagement to Jeremy (Scott Speedman), a smug businessman. Meanwhile, her parents, Rita (Jessica Lange) and Bill (Sam Neill), use the accident as an act of contrition and try to make up for pushing her out once before. Still, Leo, with photographs and old recordings as his only evidence, tries to win back his wife’s heart.
The Vow is based on Kim and Krickitt Carpenter’s story. While she never regained those lost memories, they have remained together, eventually raising two children. From a cinematic perspective, their strife makes for an intriguing premise. Nonetheless, this romance brushes past the painful details, delivering on the same tired formula: There’s a syrupy introduction, disheartening climax, and hopeful ending. The affair’s even narrated by a grief-stricken Leo, who adds faux-poeticism to the events. The writers never really address the burning questions: Is Leo hiding old mistakes? Sculpting Paige to his expectations? And, most complicatedly, how did one approach having sex with someone who claims to be your spouse if you don’t remember them?
Tatum and McAdams aren’t the best in the business, but they’re charismatic and attractive enough to win over most audiences. Women can swoon over the former, who has not only the looks, but also a tenderness and sense for romantics, while their bearded counterparts should find some solace in the lead actress’s beauty and supposed innocence. Credit is due to the superb costume and make-up departments, which dolled up the performers in designer chic.

Considering that, behind women, landscape is the second most romanticized subject in art, it’s odd how much the characters are detached from their surroundings. Unlike other such dramas where location is closely weaved into the plot, there isn’t much of a scenic touch. Save for Chicago’s Millennium Park and the Music Box movie theater (which enter the frame for mere seconds) viewers are stuck with Leo’s music studio and Paige’s parent’s luxurious home. Upon closer inspection, I learned that’s because the crew shot in Toronto, Canada, not Illinois.

However, with a narrative as sweet as McAdams’ smile, The Vow makes for an adequate date movie which, in spite of its shortcomings, is impossible to hate.

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