The Vow

Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams star in this credibility-stretching romance

The Vow

Rating

Directed by Michael Sucsy. Starring Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum, Scott Speedman, Jessica McNamee, Kristina Pesic, Sam Neill, Jessica Lange, Tatiana Maslany, Brittney Irvin, Rachel Skarsten. Written by Jason Katims, Abby Kohn, Stuart Sender, Marc Silverstein.

The Vow hinges on a premise so thin it could have only been based on a true story. And while opening credits inform us that the film was, indeed, “inspired” by a true story, that isn’t enough: before the end credits, the filmmakers deliver a picture of the couple that inspired the movie. See? Photographic evidence. They really did exist.

Maybe. But probably not as the film depicts them (indeed, the original novel had a strong Christian theme which has been completely erased from the film version). The premise of The Vow is that Paige (Rachel McAdams) awakens from a coma with no memory of the past five years of her life, which include husband Leo (Channing Tatum). Yes, they have to learn to love each other all over again. Aww.

That I’ll buy. The amnesia device is flimsy, but every film is allowed one credibility-stretching element. Any more, and you’re asking for trouble.

Here’s where The Vow breaks apart: it seems Paige was a completely different person five years ago, and not a single element of her life has remained consistent since then. At some point, Paige cut off all communication with every element of her past life: not a single member of her family, or any of her friends, knows anything about Leo or her current lifestyle.

She was a law student, now she’s a sculptor. Her favorite meal was filet mignon, now she’s a vegetarian. Her interests in music, books, and film have changed radically. She hasn’t spoken to her father (Sam Neil), mother (Jessica Lange), sister (Jessica McNamee), ex-fiancé Jeremy (Scott Speedman) or any of her friends in the past five years.

And now – boom! Amnesia, and she can pick right up where she left off. Leo is a stranger, and she can go right back to being Daddy’s little girl and lusting after Jeremy. Paige becomes an instant bitch; ready-made conflict, as if the amnesia wasn’t enough. I kept thinking, where is the grandmother or cousin or pen pal who has kept contact with Paige, and can help her through this?

The structure of The Vow creates antagonists out of Paige’s family (especially her father), who whisk her out of her hospital bed and back five years in time, when they should be important aspects of her life – not clear-cut bad guys. The post-coma personality change Paige goes through also sours us on her, and even the always-likable McAdams struggles to keep the character appealing. Most would be content to wake up with amnesia and discover they’re married to Channing Tatum.

If you can forgive the contrivances and the implausibilities (and the awkward romance – the film includes a scene in which Leo passes wind in a car, and Paige rolls up the window, because she loves him that much), The Vow is actually a sweet-natured, well-intentioned drama. But that’s a lot to forgive.


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