Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Vow

THE VOW (Michael Sucsy, 2012)

Leo (Channing Tatum) and Paige (Rachel McAdams) have been happy together for four years in THE VOW, but their lives are shattered when a car accident sends her through the windshield and into a coma.  Although she eventually awakens, Paige has no memory of Leo or their marriage.

Complicating matters further, she doesn’t recall a few years’ worth of major changes in her life.  Paige is surprised, and somewhat distressed, to learn that she gave up law school to become an artist.  She thinks she’s still engaged to the guy she dated before Leo.  Prior to the accident she hadn’t spoken with her parents for years, but as far as she can remember, they get along very well.  In fact, it takes a great deal of persuasion to get Paige to go home with her husband rather than leaving the hospital with mom and dad.

Although Paige makes some efforts to resume the life unknown to her, she feels more comfortable carrying on as though it’s more than four years earlier.  She moves back in with her parents and explores her feelings for the ex-boyfriend.  Meanwhile, Leo tries his best to be understanding and figure out how he can help his wife remember the great love they shared.
THE VOW presents some fascinating challenges for Leo and Paige, yet without fail the screenplay comes up short in allowing them to overcome the obstacles in their paths.  From Paige’s perspective, what must it be like to wake up and learn that practically everything you think you know about who you are has been upended?  How devastating it must be to be told that the lover, career, relationships, home, eating preferences, and possibly political views that you remember having are all different.  It’s no surprise that Paige retreats to what feels familiar than the reality of her pre-accident existence, but the lack of inquisitiveness about her mysterious recent history and the relatively easy manner with which she returns to her abandoned way of life drain the drama from the predicament.

From Leo’s vantage point, what does it feel like to have the person you love the most acknowledge you as a stranger and seem like one to you?  THE VOW does a better job of addressing Leo’s pain at not having his love reciprocated, although mostly this amounts to Tatum moping.  Granted, that’s a valid response, but THE VOW lacks feeling below surface level.  More disappointingly, THE VOW barely explores Leo’s emotional responses to post-accident Paige not being remotely the same woman he married.  After all, Paige isn’t the only one forced to do some major recalibration because of her brain injury.

Another big flaw in THE VOW is the lack of chemistry between Tatum and McAdams.  He’s called to carry the film’s emotional weight.  Simply put, he’s unable to shoulder that burden.  He shows some charm and sensitivity when Leo is actively wooing Paige, but otherwise Tatum often lumbers through the film as though he’s been overly medicated to avoid feeling much anguish.  You empathize for Leo but never sense that he’ll be a wreck if he and Paige can’t reconnect.  That quality must be found in Leo since Paige doesn’t know what she’s missing.  THE VOW aspires to the tragic romance of Nicholas Sparks books and their film adaptations but can’t match them.  Despite Paige’s accident and Leo’s metaphorically wounded heart, THE VOW hits a shallow bottom resulting in just a minor rebound.

Grade: C-

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