This Valentine’s Day wont be the holiday it has become with out a slew of sappy chick-flicks littering the box office. The Vow will get its fair share of the Big Date Night’s audience, since the ladies will be in charge of the romantic movie decisions. Fellas, if your lady-friend is a sucker for The Notebook, He’s Just Not That Into You, Valentine’s Day or the like, you will quite possibly see The Vow. If so, I pity you. While The Vow isn’t quite as sappy as one would expect, it’s every bit as shallow and predictable as you would imagine.
Dorky/hunky recording engineer Leo (Channing Tatum) and quirky artist Paige (Rachel McAdams) had a sweet romance, a hipster wedding, and four happy years together before a car crash changed everything. Leo survived unscathed, but Paige lost nearly five years of memories due to a head injury. Worst of all, she has no idea who Leo is. She doesn’t remember turning her back on law school, her ex-fiance (Scott Speedman), and wealthy parents (Jessica Lange and Sam Neill) — or the “horrifying” event that drove her away. They’re all she remembers now, so Leo tries to remind her of who she became after she left them behind. If they’ll let him…
Being based on a true story gives The Vow a few extra points, making the extraordinary circumstances of this unique story that much more intriguing. Predictably, Hollywood managed to suck the subtlety and charm right out of it, opting instead to lead us by the hand and try to force emotions on us with dialog and a cheesy musical score.
Our cast did their job, though it wasn’t much of a task. I was worried about Channing Tatum, to be honest, but he didn’t have to exert much energy into being Leo. Leo is mildly dorky and fairly romantic. Simply putting him in a kitschy hat and letting him sprawl through the scenes without a shirt on did the trick. However, in showing his love for Paige, Tatum was convincing enough to deserve some recognition. He didn’t strain to force himself into realms of acting that he isn’t ready for, but gives us what he knows he can do to the best of his ability. Rachel McAdams portrays Paige as both delicate and spunky, making her a fairly endearing character. She’s no stranger to this kind of film or character. What was unfortunate was her dialog. Many times, after being informed that she doesn’t eat meat, or that she’s an artist, or that she has a regular order from the local cafe, her responses were: “I don’t?”, “I am?”, or “I do?”. It’s one thing to be a little ditzy and confused after serious brain trauma. It’s another to seem surprised at every little detail that your friends and family tell you about your forgotten life. As far as the rest of the cast goes, they did everything they could with the dialog they were given, which is the very least you can expect from seasoned actors. No one went above and beyond, though, by any means.
As far as the cinematography is concerned, it’s just like any other generic flick. We get wide shots to show our scenery or make a character seem alone. We get close-ups during the romantic scenes. I actually had high hopes for the camera work in the beginning. The car crash scene was shot in slow motion, showing Paige going through the windshield in exquisite detail through a combination of what appeared to be CGI and live action. Then the next scene used a stilted and blurred montage, showing how they arrived at the hospital. Those were the only scenes that director Michael Sucsy took any artistic liberty with. As I mentioned before, the musical score was nothing exciting, and was primarily a way to let you know when you were supposed to feel sad.
The Vow feels thin and contrived, thanks to deliberate plot points, sappy elements, and director/writers decision not to allow anything to be discovered by the audience. The revelations about Paige’s family really don’t hold up against the extreme measures she took to distance herself from them. Paige doesn’t respond to Leo’s half-hearted attempts to help her remember her life, instead acting aloof and afraid most of the time. Actually, Leo really doesn’t go very far out of his way to make her love him again, opting to give her space and hope familiar things will trigger her memory. I guess the tone of The Vow is that you can’t make someone love you; it all depends on where that person is in their life that causes them to fall in love. Overall, The Vow has a few shining moments of real emotion, mild humor,and an effective ending. It’s just unfortunate that we have to endure all the cliches and hand-holding to see them.
I give The Vow 2.5 “Tasty Murder Steaks” out of 5.