Movie review: The Vow
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: Drama, Romance
Opens locally Friday, February 10th, 2012
Run Time: 1 hour 44 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum, Jessica Lange, Sam Neill, Scott Speedman
Directed by Michael Sucsy (feature film debut, director of TV's Grey Gardens)
It’s no coincidence that The Vow is being released right before Valentine’s Day, and there should be no question that it will play as a great “date night” movie.
The Vow is on the surface, your standard romantic “chick flick.” But with the beautiful Rachel McAdams in the starring role, it shouldn’t be that difficult to draw men into some seats as well. Predictable romantic relationship movies like this are normally a dime a dozen, as are storylines involving amnesia…and The Vow contains both. But somehow it manages to transcend the usual romantic muck films of this genre often find themselves stuck in. The Vow actually says a few things about relationships, and there are a lot of thoughtful conclusions drawn about fate, love, and most of all, timing. For anybody who has been in love or believes in destiny, The Vow should hit home on some level.
Inspired by a true story, The Vow stars Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum as a young married couple, Paige and Leo. We see in the opening scenes that they are extremely happy and in love, and everything appears to be normal. That is until they are in a tragic car accident on one snowy night. They both survive the ordeal, but Paige awakes with severe head trauma to find that she has no memory of her life. As unpredictable as brain injuries are, she specifically can’t remember the past 5 years or so. That means that she has no memory of her husband Leo, of being married, or of her current life.
The movie’s narrative tells the story from two distinct points of view. From her guarded and skeptical angle, Paige not only can't recall her husband, in her mind she is still engaged to her ex-boyfriend, Jeremy (Scott Speedman). She also remembers having been in law school, not working as an abstract artist in a makeshift studio. She tends to find comfort in her strict and old-fashioned parents, played by Sam Neill and Jessica Lange in small but juicy roles. She hasn’t spoken to them in years, but she doesn’t remember why.
The rest of the time we see things from Leo’s perspective. Imagine losing your partner, for all intents and purposes. Paige is his wife, but their time together has been wiped out…lost are the small inside jokes that connect them. The past memories of events and times shared, all gone. Leo tries desperately to get Paige to remember their life together, but she is now at a different time and place in her head. She appreciates his concern, but has lost the spark and the knowledge of why she was with him in the first place...he is meeting her at a different point in her life, and timing is everything.
Stories dealing with amnesia are a tough sell since they are rarely relatable…how many of us know someone who has forgotten their lives? But the script of The Vow is a good one, and it does a great job of capturing real relationships. There are several tiny moments in the film that ring true, and all of the characters speak like real people using relatable dialogue.
The Vow points out just how fragile love is. It’s not just having to meet the right person, it’s finding each other at an exact, precise moment in each of your lives. But the film suggests also that true love may be destined…that no matter the circumstances, love will find a way. It is a movie that ranks patience above all other virtues.
Rachel McAdams is such an adorable and mesmerizing talent, that Channing Tatum's weaknesses really stand out when matched with her superiour acting talent. He does stretch further than he has thus far in his career, and he gets better toward the second half of the film, but never quite pulls off the emotional depth required of the role. Rachel McAdams though, gives a fine performance and makes us believe in her situation maybe more than we should.
It goes on a bit too long and there are several moments of over-sold, weepy drama. If you’ve never imagined a worse-case scenario for your loved one, The Vow may play as a cheesy throwaway romance. But to those who fear losing a loved one, it’s nearly impossible to sit through The Vow and not feel something. I for one, left the theater with a better appreciation of the random nature of what it takes to find someone and how special that truly is. As the film states, there are several moments of impact during your life that can change you permanently.
Watching The Vow isn’t necessarily one of those impactful moments, and it is far from a perfect film. But beyond the hokey amnesia story that we’ve all seen a million times, The Vow is trying to say something a bit different…that it’s not all about who you meet, it’s when you meet them. That alone makes it more meaningful than your average sappy romance.
Serving its purpose and aimed squarely at a female audience, The Vow had a deeper than expected impact on me, a male viewer. Rachel McAdams proves once again that she is a super-star talent, and can pretty much make any premise an enjoyable experience at the theater.
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