Hey girls, just in time for Valentine’s Day, here comes a sappy love story about the power of love starring Rachel McAdams (you know, from that other sappy love story about the power of love) and Channing Tatum (he’s so dreamy!). It’s the perfect date movie to drag your sweetie to after he shows up with a dozen roses and a heart-shaped box of Russell Stovers he picked up at the gas station on the way over.
Single? No problem! Grab your other solo homegirls (even the cynical “Miranda” one in your group), stop for some Merlot and cupcakes, and check it too, for there’s hope for true love yet. After all, this film is based on true story!
I apologize. But clearly, this was the thinking process of Hollywood marketing geniuses somewhere when deciding upon the release date of The Vow. And guess what? They were exactly right. The Vow opened in the number one spot this weekend. It even beat out the largely hyped re-re-release of Star Wars: Episode One – The Phantom Menace in 3D!!! (Which, when deciding upon that release date, George Lucas was obviously banking on a lot of single nerds needing something to do on V-Day. Haha George, the joke’s on you! Nerds are hot now. Meesa think theysa be out getting laid POW POW instead of handing yousa more money. BOOM!)
I apologize again, that was wude.
Though the plot sounds like a soap opera contrivance, The Vow is based on the real-life story of Kim and Krickitt Carpenter, a newlywed couple who got into a horrific car accident which left Krickett (that would be the wife) in a coma. She woke up with no recollection of her current life or husband, only long-term memories which included a previous boyfriend. Was Kim able to win her love all over again? Well, I’ll get to that in a bit.
In the Hollywood version of these events, Kim and Krickett are pretty people named Paige and Leo (Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum). Paige leaves law-school to become a sculptor, much to the chagrin of her snooty parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange). Leo plays guitar and owns a recording studio. We meet the couple the night of the accident and soon get a brief flashback of their happy hipster life together before that doomed car ride.
Back to the present, the new-old Paige is a completely different person than the one Leo knows. She can’t believe she is an artist and not a law-student. She hates her clothes and hair. She no longer likes her music loud and her meals meat-free. She is shocked to learn that she has…a TATTOO! What’s happened to the manic pixie dream girl Leo fell in love with? To make things worse, her estranged parents show up and fight to bring Paige back to her old life which includes law-school and her yuppie scum ex-fiancee Jeremy (Scott Speedman), who never got over her and for whom she has new-old feelings. Oh Leo, you have problems. What are you going to do?
There aren’t many shockers here, this film is exactly what it appears to be. But for what it is, you can’t get a better leading lady than Rachel McAdams. This is her thing. She’s impossibly adorable even when playing a mean girl (See: Midnight in Paris, The Hot Chick, and duh, Mean Girls). And she kind of does here once her character morphs back into her old self, though nowhere near the extent of those other roles. Her performance elevates the material to around a “well, it was pretty good” level.
I also appreciated that the film was nowhere near the cheesefest tearjerker I was expecting. The melodrama is kept to a minimum and many moments come off pretty realistic, seeming like the way they would play out in a real life situation with these extreme circumstances. There are even a few well-earned laughs along the way (my favorite being the recording studio session– I’m keeping my eye on Tatiana Maslany, easily the second best performance of the film after McAdams’).
This was my first exposure (oh no, that’s a pun. Sorry. God, I’m apologizing a lot in this review.) to Channing Tatum. He certainly looks the part of a romantic lead, but there was something missing that left me wishing for a different actor in the role. Of course every love story drama staring Rachel McAdams is going to inevitably draw comparisons to The Notebook and the scorching chemistry she had with her then-boyfriend Ryan Gosling, and it’s unfair to use that as the bar, but Tatum’s wooden delivery and two expressions make it all the more difficult not to think about.
There’s a problem when the leading lady has more chemistry with the guy you’re supposed to be rooting against. And also, with clay.
Without giving away any spoilers, there were a few plot points that bothered me. Okay, I guess I have to give away a couple mini-spoilers. Sorry. (Dammit!)
The main one was the reason Paige ran off to start a new life and not speak to her family for four years. I can understand why she’d be upset, but to completely change who she is (was) and not even speak to her sister in all that time? It seems extreme considering she was not directly involved. Since this is based on a true story, it could have been the case, but still seems a bit much.
The other part I’ll mention that had me scratching my head was what seemed to be a turning point in the story that had Paige and Leo finally reconnecting. By the next scene, though, it’s as if the film had amnesia itself. Um? Weren’t they just? Did I miss? Bad editing maybe?
I’m adding on a mini-gripe in this beer because I don’t feel this film is a 5 and I only have one drink left to award. So let’s call this one the shot in an Irish Carbomb:
Narration. It bugs me. It wasn’t necessary and took me out of the movie.
I’m gonna say SPOILER ALERT here since this pretty much gives away the ending (though if you have more than one brain cell, you can probably figure out the ending anyway).
For a film that touts itself as “based on a true story” of true love conquering all (even amnesia!), this quote from the real life “Paige” is a little unsettling:
“I would love to say that I fell in love with him again because that’s what everybody wants to hear. I chose to love him and that was based on obedience to God, not feelings … I chose to love him because I made a vow.” (full article here)
Whoa. How hot did that make you? I certainly need a moment.
Look, I get that this is a Hollywood romanticized version of the real-life events and that Paige and Leo are not really Krickett and Kim, but come on Krickett! You just killed the movie for all the Merlot-drinking, cupcake-eating single homegirls (well, except the Miranda, who said “I told you so!”).
Though it’s watchable and better than I thought it would be, thanks mostly to McAdams, The Vow is pretty much still a Lifetime movie with a Hollywood budget. It probably would have been more enjoyable with anyone other than Channing Tatum. Ironically though, you’ll most likely forget about it after seeing it.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time Channing Tatum is shirtless. Take a Shot when he’s pantless.
Take a Drink: every time Rachel McAdams has a different hairstyle.
Take a Drink: at every establishing shot of Chicago. (Most of it was actually filmed in Toronto though).
Take a Drink: every time you think about how much better this movie would be if Ryan Gosling was playing the part of Leo.
Take a Drink: every time you wish you were watching Overboard (or hell, even 50 First Dates) instead.