A quietly moving romantic drama, The Vow overcomes the “romantic weepy” stigma placed on it with its well acted tale of love gained, love lost and the evolution of personality.
Ever since The Notebook brought scores of women to tears several years ago, studios have been scrambling to repeat its success with one romantic melodrama after another. Only now with The Vow has a movie come along that surpasses the formula of boy-girl-love-tears with its surprising restraint and heartfelt characters.
The film stars romance veterans Rachel McAdams (she of Notebook fame) and Channing Tatum (he of Dear John). They play Paige and Leo, a couple so completely in love with one another they crave each other’s farts (watch the film for clarification).
Pains are taken to show how tragically hip this couple is. She is a sculptor, he is a record producer. They live in an inner city dwelling beyond their pay packet. They get married in a museum as their friends look on in hipster garb such as ruffled shirts and silk cowboy shirts. Another friend wearing a top hat and five o’clock shadow proceeds over the wedding as Paige and Leo read hand written vows off the back of a menu pamphlet.
Things are looking good for this Gen Y couple, until a car accident puts Paige in a coma. When she awakens the last five years of her life is wiped from her memory and thus her personality reverts back to that time. Turns out that before she was a city living artist Paige was a country club princess. To top it off she has no idea who her husband is.
With McAdams playing the lost soul trying to piece together the last several years of her life, it is up to Channing Tatum to carry the emotional weight of the story and he does a good job doing so. One of the more charisma bereft leading men currently working today, Tatum uses that quiet, mumbling persona of his to great effect in his portrayal of a man drowning under the frustrations of losing his love to circumstances beyond his control.
Supporting turns are also good with Sam Neill playing smarmy very well as Paige’s father, Jessica Lange delivers a nicely written dramatic monologue as Paige’s mother, and Scott Speedman is easily despisable as the ex-fiancé ready to pounce.
The Vow is directed by Michael Sucsy, who received acclaim for the HBO movie Grey Gardens. Sucsy wisely does not follow the traps these films usually fall for and opts for a tenderly paced, quietly engaging take on what could have been another Notebook redux.
Its idea that we are evolving personalities whim to our environment and influences, along with the palpable longing this husband feels for his wife who sees only a stranger before her, makes The Vow much more than that. A surprisingly effective film.