THE VOW Review

There is a certain caution with which you have to approach "The Vow". We know that it is going to be a sappy love story and that it is meant to induce tears and appreciation for the one you love in your own life. It is manufactured for the masses and is no doubt the perfect Valentine's date movie as that is the reason I saw it and the packed theater was full of couples old and young. There is nothing wrong with mass appeal, I actually get excited when I am allowed the chance to watch a new release with a large audience so I can gauge their reaction as compared to my own. Even with a movie I wasn't overly excited to see like "The Vow" it was still an opportunity to see how mainstream movie-goers would react to the latest in romantic drama's, a genre that since Rachel McAdams breakout film "The Notebook" has dipped in quality. I'll start by saying that it certainly wasn't as bad as you might have heard. Yes, it is a love story, but the premise is a touching sentiment and despite the trailer being the epitome of every romantic cliche the film as a whole is not actually as romantic as one might expect. It is based more around the honest struggle a man and woman in such a predicament might feel. The film has dressed up the two main characters as young liberals who are all about their art and contributions to that community, but all the extra stuff is just fluff. The core story the film tells is a sad, horrible situation that truly did turn out okay in the end. in some ways it is refreshing while in other ways it is almost regressive. That is shows glimpses of genuine care and love though is an accomplishment and for that I can't bash "The Vow". I'd feel bad about it.

Leo (Channing Tatum) and Paige (Rachel McAdams)
become newlyweds in "The Vow". 
If you have seen the trailer for the film you essentially know what is going to happen, but that isn't to say the movie doesn't give you a few moments where you second guess the conclusion. There were a few times I actually thought it might go the way of no choice but to come to terms with the matter of fact circumstances that were the result of a car accident. It would have no doubt let the audience down and made them wonder whether the movie was even worth watching, but luckily for the makers of the film they can stick with their "inspired by true events" bit and rely on the fact that the couple this was based on are still together and happily married with two children. It at least gives it a little more credibility and lends a helping hand to the tone of the film. At first glance this feels as artificial as many other romantic comedies of late and on the surface, it is. We meet young college of the arts students Leo who is a guitar strumming, care free guy who wears a cool hat and Paige, the new girl at school who is looking to do what she always dreamed of. We aren't immediately given their history, rather we are shown how quickly and how deep they fall in love. It is charming and thanks to committed performances from both McAdams and Tatum this is more convincing than initially expected. It is quickly delved into where our two love birds are victims of weather and roads where they are rear-ended by a truck and sent to the hospital. In quick flashes we see highlights from the time they met to their impromptu wedding that you have to admit was pretty fun and original. Leo wakes up quick and doesn't have much to show for his injuries but Paige seems to have lost a portion of her memory, forgetting the last several years of her life and anything pertaining to Leo.

After Paige loses her memory she tries to put everything
back together by creating a timeline of pictures.
While this is all rather dramatic and more than a writer could hope for when it comes to desperately romantic situations, what the movie does that I can get behind, that I can really commend it for is that it takes out that cynical view of love. We forget that this is a story easily turned into a cash cow to profit from the completely commercial holiday that is Valentine's day. Instead, there is such a genuine heart to the film that we don't see these characters as contrived versions of ourselves (despite their artsy yet profitable jobs/hobbies). What we do see is the stripped down basics of the human person, that he is in love with her and we are delivered all the reasons and moments why. Not only though does he love her, but he appreciates her, he laughs at her and he can't imagine experiencing his life without having her to share it with. The fact that all of this is threatened by a chance accident that brings into the picture Paige's estranged family who has never met Leo and with this kind of second chance try to regain her into the family. Sam Neill plays the judgmental and typical high society father that wants his daughter to follow in his footsteps by forcing her into law school. Jessica Lange is the mother who clearly misses her daughter and can only hope her memory doesn't return as to why she left for the city and a new life in the first place. It is once Paige is re-introduced to her old life, the only life she remembers, that the manipulation begins with the return of an old flame (Scott Speedman) and a mystery woman who clearly has something to do with Paige's life decisions. It is at once frustrating and depressing to see Leo go through what he has to in order to gain what is rightfully his, but depressing in that the writers found it necessary to keep piling on complications to heighten the situation. Their is enough tragedy in the fact she doesn't have a single memory of her husband. There is no need to saturate that with other factors, just give us the bear, raw meaning of love prevailing.

Leo and Paige: it is love at first sight.
There is a mixed bag of a reaction to "The Vow" and I am probably making this more difficult than it has to be, but this is a genre of film that has seen some of its landmark productions. In the "heyday" of Hollywood it was all about big, sweeping, romantic tales and now they have been relegated to generic half comedies that hardly resemble anything anyone really goes through when dealing with that all too complex emotion. "The Vow" at least attempts an honest interpretation of what that emotion when felt between two equals can mean, and it also strives to show why, if you are lucky enough to find a partner that compliments you, that you should not take them for granted. It has hints of greatness in moments like Paige asking for things that run much deeper in Leo's mind than she could ever imagine and her, caring enough to want to try and give him what she knows once existed. It is billed as a story of making this married couple go through the process of falling in love again, but what this really ends up being is a man fighting for a woman that doesn't know him. There were times I would get annoyed with the characters, especially Paige and her apprehensions, but I can only imagine being in her position. I have to give it up to Channing as well, I have never thought of him as a good actor. He is wooden in most things and is only there as eye candy. We better get used to him though as he is set to be in everything this year. He gives one of his best performances as Leo though and gives us a real person to hang on to as we are guided through this mostly contrived set-up with a pure heart and determination. This isn't all bad and certainly isn't the worst romantic drama you could see, but I'd still rather watch "Crazy Stupid Love" for the fifth time than see this again.