The story follows a happily married couple, Paige (Rachel McAdams) and Leo (Channing Tatum), artist bohemians out of Chicago, whose lives are shattered one night when a car accident seriously injures Paige. After coming out of her coma, she wakes up with severe memory loss without remembering that she is married to Leo. Since we quickly discover that Paige originally came from a wealthy family that she abandoned for reasons explained later in the picture, we know that the film is going to be a battle of wills between the sensitive artist husband she's forgotten and the rich rotters who want her back. Guess who wins?
Director Micheal Sucsy pulls away from laying the sentiment and melodrama on too heavy, but his noble decision also lays bare the creaky mechanics of the plot. For instance, when Paige's parents (played by Jessica Lange and Sam Neill as if they were trapped in hair-shirts) want proof that Leo and Paige are actually married, the best thing he can come up with is a voice mail message. Since we are living in 2012, couldn't Leo have also provided a Facebook page, maybe some Tweets or texts between them, or even some e-mails dating back to the beginning of their courtship? We're also led to believe that once he wins the first battle in bringing her home, so she can gradually discover her memory of their life together, he springs on her a coming home surprise party that features all the people that she has no memory of knowing. It totally overwhelms her. (For all of Leo's sensitivities, he is something of a genial lug.)
|Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum|
On the whole, trying to make good romantic pictures these days has become more and more difficult. Part of why the great love stories and comedies of the Thirties and Forties worked so well was not just that many came from terrific Broadway plays and their great writers and stars, it was also because love and sex was still considered a mystery. Erotic tension was created out of innuendo and suggestion. Now that movies deal with eroticism using more explicitness, with the characters' neurosis clearly defined, the mystery is out of the bottle. Romantic writers and directors end up delving further into raunch, as Judd Apatow has done, or (like The Vow) they simply try to resurrect old romantic virtues dressed up in contemporary clothes. Either way, we never get to the fundamental reasons of why two people meet and are never the same afterward.
Despite offering the audience a huge tug of the heart just in time for Valentine's Day, The Vow has no heart to give. It's strictly genteel.
Artificial Paradise: The Dark Side of The Beatles' Utopian Dream). His forthcoming book is Reflections in the Hall of Mirrors: American Movies and the Politics of Idealism. In January 2012, at the Miles Nidal Centre JCC in Toronto, Courrier began a lecture series (film clips included) based on Reflections. Check their schedule. With John Corcelli, Courrier is currently working on another radio documentary for CBC Radio's Inside the Music called The Other Me: The Avant-Garde Music of Paul McCartney.