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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

‘The Vow’ offers typical romantic heartbreak

Published: February 17, 2012
Section: Arts, Etc.

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, a movie like “The Vow”—with its tragic, life-changing, world-shaking romance—was more than expected. The movie, directed by Michael Sucsy, is doomed to predictability from the start, with an eye-locking moment, a chocolate-filled first date, an invitation to move-in and a strange declaration of love. Nonetheless, it meets its chick-flick expectations well.

“The Vow” tells the bittersweet love story of Paige (dimpled beauty Rachel McAdams) and Leo (jaw-clenching Channing Tatum). It seems like the typical boy-meets-girl plot until the unrealistically happy couple is rear-ended by a truck in Chicago. The anticipated tragic moment is enhanced by the beauty of snowy scenery and the kiss that the couple shares just seconds before the accident, which is played in slow motion and elicits shocked gasps from the audience.

Paige flies through the windshield and enters a coma from which she emerges more beautiful than ever, but with amnesia. She thinks Leo is her uncommonly handsome doctor—to which Channing Tatum responds with more jaw-clenching—and, to top it all off with the ultimate girl drama, she hates her artsy clothes. Paige can’t remember quitting law school, fighting with her wealthy, snobby parents or ending her engagement with Jeremy (Scott Speedman). The last thing she remembers is asking a waiter at the Macaroni Grill if they had toasted ravioli, but she can’t remember the answer. What a tragedy!

Even though Paige’s parents want her to move back in after the accident, Leo convinces her through a voicemail in which she sounds happy and in love that going with him is the right thing to do. With her weird artsy clothes in hand and Leo’s piecing blue eyes watching her every move, they go home and Paige becomes a “sweater-set-wearing, mojito-drinking sorority girl.” Poor Leo.

Rachel McAdams plays her part well—the role of confused and innocent daddy’s girl certainly agrees with her—and she gets both laughs and tears from the audience. Channing Tatum, on the other hand, is slightly less believable and slightly more distant, but his unnaturally perfect body is exposed several times and that alone is a good enough reason to see the movie.

Paige and Leo are very well-developed but the same cannot be said about the rest of the characters in the movie. This is especially true when it comes to Leo’s friends who barely even have personalities of their own. It’s true that Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum have very beautiful faces, but that doesn’t mean that we want to look at them for two hours straight. The only exception to this is Paige’s mother (Jessica Lange), who acts beautifully even though she doesn’t appear much throughout the movie.

The idea of “The Vow” is fantastic and sweet. It’s about the possibility of second chances, of fixing the mistakes you made in the past, of being better. On their wedding day, Leo’s beautiful voice tells Paige that he loves her, and that “No matter what challenges might carry us apart, we will always find a way back to each other.” That is essentially the plot; everyone knows what will happen in the end but there’s way too much back and forth.

The film was apparently “inspired by true events.” The story came from a couple in New Mexico and four screenwriters—Michael Sucsy, Jason Katims, Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein—brought their tragedy to the big screen. All in all, they could have done a better job at it. Although there are some nice reflections in the movie—“How do you look at the girl you love and tell yourself that it’s time to walk away”—most of the lines are very standard. It’s not Rachel McAdams’ or Channing Tatum’s fault. They delivered their lines enthusiastically, and if it weren’t for them, the movie would have been completely ruined.

The actors interact well and there is clearly chemistry between them (I don’t blame Rachel McAdams, honestly, it’s Channing Tatum!). It was only natural for them to co-star in this movie after gaining previous experience from a couple of Nicholas Sparks’ tragedies (McAdams in “The Notebook” and Tatum in “Dear John”). They’ve mastered the loving looks, fake laughs and sorrowful moments to perfection.

In the end, “The Vow” promises more than it delivers and it really didn’t promise much to begin with. The movie wasn’t expected to be life-changing or shocking but its degree of forgettability came as an unexpected surprise. It’s one of those cases in which the scenes in the trailer are better than the scenes in the movie. Sadly, only the sight of Channing Tatum’s bare bottom can help the film out of its current amnesia-inducing obscurity.