The Vow
dir Michael Sucsy
scr Jason Katims, Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein
prd Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Jonathan Glickman, Paul Taublieb with Channing Tatum, Rachel McAdams, Jessica Lange, Sam Neill, Scott Speedman, Jessica McNamee, Wendy Crewson, Tatiana Maslany, Lucas Bryant, Joey Klein, Joe Cobden, Jeananne Goossen
release US/UK 10.Feb.12
12/US Screen Gems 1h44
The Vow
True love waits: Tatum and McAdams

lange neill speedman
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Vow Inspired by a true story, this film is watchable mainly because of the extraordinary events, which are genuinely involving and moving. Although typically, Hollywood has ramped up the emotions while avoiding subtlety at all costs.

Goofy recording engineer Leo (Tatum) and adorable artist Paige (McAdams) had a cute romance, quirky wedding and four happy years together before a car crash changed everything. Leo only has minor injuries, but Paige has lost some five years of memories. Crucially, she has no idea who Leo is. And she doesn't remember turning her back on her law course, smirking fiance (Speedman) and wealthy parents (Lange and Neill). They're all she remembers now, so Leo tries to remind her of who she became after she left them behind. If they'll let him.

Grounded in real life, the plot resists being forced into a standard movie structure, although the screenwriters try their best. Fortunately they have two extremely offbeat actors in the lead roles: Tatum plays Leo like a dork with a heart of gold (and the waxed, muscled chest of a stripper), while McAdams plays Paige as a sexy, strong-willed woman who's perplexed by the tattoo on her back and by Leo saying that she's a vegetarian.

Actually, the premise is so intriguing that we let the filmmakers get away with shameless manipulation and trite plot points, from the annoying existential voiceover to Leo's rather half-hearted attempts to convince Paige that she loves him. But the tensions between Paige's old and new lives are effectively played, with strong contrast between the buttoned-up opulence of her Lake Forest family and the eclectic, loose cosiness of her spacious inner-city loft. Yes, the filmmakers make sure we don't miss a thing.

And this is a bit of a problem, because by removing any chance that we might discover something ourselves, the film feels thin and contrived. Every emotional point is pushed home with sappy dialog, music and performances. Some of this is warmly emotional, and there are some nicely humorous moments along the way as well, along with a surprisingly effective ending. If only we could forget the cliches we had to endure to get there.

cert 12 themes, language, some violence 6.Feb.12

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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall