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"...to agree or disagree on red velvet cake..."
on February 24, 2012
You probably won't ever see Channing Tatum ferociously chewing the scenery, but you must give him props for earnestness. In THE VOW he handles the voiceover narration, and you could feel him trying. But when he launches into his clunky theory on "moments of impact," it's hard for me to buy it as credible insight. Maybe I'm biased. Probably I've pigeonholed Channing Tatum. Perhaps I was expecting him to bust an ill dance move or join a fight club. Me, I liked this film okay. And for the film's starry-eyed target audience, no amount of dis will sway them. Still, somewhere, even the staff writers at Hallmark are rolling their eyes.
In wintry Chicago, Leo (Tatum) and Paige (Rachel McAdams) are a young married couple still very much in love with each other. After all, they wrote their wedding vows on the menus of their favorite restaurant, and that right there probably qualifies what they have as some sort of legendary love affair. But then a runaway truck smashes into their car, and there's Paige catapulting thru the windshield. Leo, who had his seatbelt on, is relatively fine. When Paige awakens from her coma, she discovers that she's suffering from selective amnesia. She can't remember the last five years of her life. She can't imagine being this in demand sculptor and living in the city and married to Leo, this sudden stranger.
I'm sure them womenfolk are swooning all over Channing Tatum (who also bares his behind in one scene, so, uh, yay). Tatum is rendered ridiculously sympathetic by his romantic gestures and by virtue of what he's put thru by the amnesiac Paige. Leo remains the sweet devoted spouse, desperately striving to win his estranged wife all over again. But it's tough, really tough. Once a free-spirited creature, Paige now seems like an entirely different person. One of Leo and Paige's mutual friends voices our concern: "I'm just worried if she doesn't remember you, how's she supposed to remember she's in love with you?" Somewhere, Nicholas Sparks is kicking himself for not thinking up this plot.
Not that Paige is purposely mean or thoughtless. She's experiencing her own bits of turmoil. And, me, what I found really interesting are those moments which focus on Paige and the scary stuff she's going thru. Rachel McAdams is quite good at conveying that sense of desolation and confusion and helplessness one must feel when stricken with deep memory loss.
From Paige's perspective, it's like this: She's never had a falling out with her rich, conservative parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange). She's still in law school and engaged to her old sweetheart Jeremy (Scott Speedman). Today, Paige can't comprehend what would compel her to move to the city or give up law study or not be on speaking terms with her parents. What made her break up with Jeremy? I remember getting mad at myself in the theater for getting suckered in by these concerns. But I found myself wanting to know what made Paige turn her back on her old life five years ago.
Watching the love of your life just slip away from you, no matter how hard you try to hold on - what's a more irresistible premise, especially on Valentine's Day? Channing Tatum's got a long road to go before he achieves real actor status. He still tends to be stiff and awkward. Except that, for this film, his awkwardness works in his favor. It makes him even more of an underdog, especially when pitted against the urbane Speedman and those old acting hands Sam Neill and Jesicca Lange. It's a shame, by the way, that Jessica Lange only gets that one scene in which to strut her stuff.
There are romantic beats in THE VOW that, for all their predictability and heavyhandedness, are still worth waiting for. And that's because McAdams and Tatum do create some sparks in their scenes together. Despite her newfound attraction to Jeremy, Paige gradually, cautiously becomes open to Leo's advances. She remarks: "I married him. It must've been for some reason." This then leads to probably my favorite sequence, which is their "first date." Since I'm a manly man, I won't swoon or have vapors. But I liked that sequence.
THE VOW is based on the real-life story of Kim and Krickitt Carpenter. Apparently, Krickitt never did recover from her amnesia, and yet they're happily married with two kids. Not that I'm saying that's what happens in this movie. In fact, surprisingly, THE VOW veers away from giving us a grand romantic gesture in the finale. I like that the resolution unfolds unexpectedly and messily and almost in anticlimactic fashion. But the way the last 20 or so minutes unfold feels more believable. I was glad there wasn't a mad dash thru the airport or a dramatic "Stop the Wedding!" moment at the twelfth hour. The cliché police are overtaxed as it is.