A vow to not keep
Last Modified: February 18. 2013 7:07PM
A strong aroma of ‚??The Notebook‚?Ě wafts from ‚??The Vow,‚?Ě the new scented candle of a romantic drama that somehow enchanted audiences this past weekend. Both star Rachel McAdams and a younger male costar. Her characters come from stodgy, wealthy upbringings but harbor artistic passions. Their men are working class but rich in love and rippling abdominal muscles. The girls‚?? parents, of course, disapprove of the relationships. Memory loss even plays a pivotal role in both movies.
‚??The Vow‚?Ě hopes that these similarities will evoke the long ago warm and fuzzies of ‚??The Notebook.‚?Ě This leads to a movie with no style ‚?? just another artist‚??s greatest hits lazily sung in a different key.
Paige (McAdams) and Leo (Channing Tatum) live a happily married hipster life in Chicago. She‚??s a sculptor with a rising reputation. He runs a recording studio. They‚??re nauseatingly in love with each other, so it‚??s no surprise that Paige makes a pass at him while they‚??re stopped at an intersection. The timing is unfortunate. Moments after she unbuckles her seat belt, a snowplow hits their car from behind.
Leo gets some cuts and bruises. Paige endures massive brain trauma. When she comes to, Paige has no recollection of Leo. The past five years or so are a blank slate. She has no memory of becoming an artist, of separating herself from her family or even going vegetarian. Paige‚??s doctor urges her to return to her normal routine, a plan her estranged, wealthy parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange, both wearing permanent scowls) immediately dismiss. Leo is adamant and brings Paige to a now-unfamiliar world.
She struggles. Possessions, keepsakes and friends become irritants, and the familiar, fancy-pants patterns of her family beckon. Paige also finds her former fiance, Jeremy (Scott Speedman, whose aerodynamic hair marks him as a villain), appealing. The vagaries on neurology are one thing, but Paige‚??s family, happy to get a fresh start, keeps Leo at arm‚??s length. Still, he tries, even taking Paige on a date in the hopes that his love will trigger something.
Based on true events, ‚??The Vow‚?Ě is obviously inspired by ‚??The Notebook.‚?Ě But the more-recent effort never aspires to the syrupy grandeur of its predecessor. Director Michael Sucsy and his screenwriters are so busy entertaining us by association and obvious visual clues that ‚??The Vow‚?Ě proceeds with a tentative politeness.
As Paige finds her way back to being herself, she relearns some hard truths, but Sucsy shrugs them away into the benign, pleasant scenery. The leads‚?? performances fail to engage us. Instead of being romantic, Tatum‚??s marble-mouthed stoicism casts doubts as to how Leo got to date two with Paige. McAdams, once a vivacious and feisty performer, continues to saunter toward bland mass appeal. Her rising popularity stems from two factors: Commitment to a certain kind of material ‚?? time-addled romances ‚?? and that she‚??s pretty enough so women don‚??t instinctively hate her. Her charisma is evaporating.
What‚??s so frustrating about ‚??The Vow‚?Ě is it never peels away layers. Everything is predictable and soothing, including the copout ending. Leo‚??s devotion, Tatum‚??s chiseled ass and the movie‚??s familiarity will stir young romantics. Clearly, Sucsy knows the audience‚??s expectations. Too bad they‚??re barely met. If ‚??The Vow‚?Ě had displayed a little more effort, maybe the film would have filled our hearts instead of drooping our eyelids.