Mark Reviews Movies

The Vow (2012)

THE VOW (2012)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Michael Sucsy

Cast: Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum, Jessica Lange, Sam Neill, Jessica McNamee, Wendy Crewson, Tatiana Maslany, Scott Speedman

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for an accident scene, sexual content, partial nudity and some language)

Running Time: 1:44

Release Date: 2/10/12

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Review by Mark Dujsik | February 9, 2012

At one point in The Vow, Paige (Rachel McAdams), who suffers from the sort of specific amnesia in which she can recall everything except the key elements of her present life, watches her wedding video. Her face is twisted in confusion as her former self reads some vows off a menu, and then it becomes even more exaggerated as her husband reads his own vows off a menu from the same restaurant (which, by the way, is oh-so-cutely called the Mnemonic Café). One interpretation of Paige's look is of the general, garden-variety kind, in which she's clearly frustrated that she can't remember such a life-altering event; another—one that's vaguely raised as Paige reverts back to her old life before her husband (though McAdams' excessive contortions and the aw-shucks nature of the romance put it in my mind)—is a bit darker: As she watches, she can't help but be annoyed with the life she has now, thankfully, forgotten.

The movie kind of, sort of goes there, if only for the gaping dichotomy between Paige's old life (The one she remembers) and her new one (The one she cannot). Back in the day, she lived with her wealthy family in a rich northern suburb of Chicago. She was engaged to a man, went to law school, and had her whole life set in stone.

Then, something—another thing she conveniently forgets—happened, and she wound up living a Bohemian life in the city—working as a waitress while trying to start a career as an artist and meeting cute with Leo (Channing Tatum). Leo seems to exist solely to woo her—taking her out, staring creepily through a window to watch her open a present, etc. (Eventually, Paige voices the major query of the audience and asks him, "Do you work;" since he owns a recording studio, the unspoken answer, of course, is "No").

The screenplay by Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein, and Jason Katims is "inspired by true events," meaning the screenwriters have taken the headline of a real-life incident ("Woman loses memory, forgets husband") and invented the rest. Here, we have a story filled with its own unique difficulties abandoned for such melodramatic conflicts as Paige's parents not really liking Leo and everything he represents for their daughter, whether or not Paige's feelings for her old fiancé return when the only love in her life she can remember is him, and the lengths to which Leo will go to remind his wife that she did, at one point, love him.

The movie opens with a car crash that sends Paige flying the windshield, then flashes back four years prior, as Leo muses on the soundtrack about moments of impact that can change one's life. One such event was when he spotted Paige while waiting in line, went outside to talk to her, and pointed out that they both have the same residential parking permits. Soon, they were married in a ceremony with only a few friends—ones that serve no other purpose than to act as a sounding board for Leo (There's one who, based on how he dresses, obviously doesn't have a mirror in his apartment, another guy, and a woman, so that Leo can have the female perspective once or twice).

After the accident, Paige's parents Bill (Sam Neill) and Rita (Jessica Lange) return into her life after a long absence. They think they know what's best for their daughter, and since Paige can only remember life before she left home in protest, she tends to agree. Leo insists that she come back home with him in the hopes of jump-starting her memory. We obviously get the mandatory scene in which a medical expert (Wendy Crewson) explains to the characters and the audience that every traumatic brain injury is unique and unpredictable; these characters never explain how it's also convenient for melodrama (The doctor also doesn't mention how crashing through a windshield results in only two easily concealable scars).

Paige returns home with Leo, and their relationship becomes a purgatory of roundabout debates. She wants proof that she loved him; he shows her or she finds something. It isn't enough, and she wants more. He wants her to remember; she tells him she can't. It's isn't enough, and he wants more. Tatum and McAdams are fine in their roles, despite a screenplay that insists their characters have no forward momentum. When Paige's former fiancé Jeremy (Scott Speedman) shows up, it becomes clear the script has little concern for how Leo and Paige actually deal with this obstacle.

Beyond the couple's arguments, the entire movie is circular in nature, since Paige must eventually return to the same place she started. The primarily voiceless epilogue of The Vow, then, is the only section of the movie with real dramatic potential based on the dilemma at hand, in that actually allows this transition to occur. Beforehand, the movie is just spinning its wheels.

Copyright © 2012 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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