The Vow (2012)
★★ / ★★★★
A truck smashed into a couple’s car while on their way home from a romantic night out. Leo (Channing Tatum) suffered a few injuries, but Paige (Rachel McAdams) had severe brain hemorrhaging so the doctors thought it would be wise to keep her in a coma until her brain had a bit of time to recover. When Paige woke up, she had no memory of Leo, including getting married to him and moving to the city to pursue her career as an artist. She remembered being in law school, being engaged to a man named Jeremy (Scott Speedman), and living a completely different lifestyle prior to the accident. Inspired by a true story, “The Vow,” based on the screenplay by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, offered several good scenes because it was able to capitalize on the chemistry between Tatum and McAdams, but certain plot mechanisms were so obviously designed to make us feel sorry for the couple and angry toward everyone else. Take Rita (Jessica Lange) and Bill (Sam Neill), Paige’s parents, as an example. We were given background information that Paige hadn’t spoken or seen them in years for reasons yet unknown to us. When the parents arrived at the hospital, it was difficult to get to know their characters, as if the material wasn’t at all willing to give them a chance. They were so serious, tight-lipped, and stern. Every time they opened their mouths, it was about chastising Leo for not calling and letting them know that their daughter had been involved in a terrible accident and attempting to get their daughter to live away from her husband. Because that scene–and others of its type–was so manipulative, it was difficult not to consider more realistic reactions. While the parents would still probably be angry with Leo for not being informed, wouldn’t they also have felt some sort of relief knowing that Paige was still alive? Since the parents were pigeonholed as villains for the majority of the time, the script lost the necessary complexities in the human drama: the disapproving parents seizing a new chance to lead a new life with their wayward daughter at the cost of Leo and Paige’s marriage and Paige’s personal struggle to put together the pieces of a life she had great trouble remembering. If the relationships had been messier, like life, it could have been much more compelling. However, the film was not without moments of truth. This may sound kinky but I found the scene where Leo passed gas in the car and Paige, to my horror, actually pulled up her window so she could bask in the stink. While most people would consider such a thing as downright disgusting, I found it romantic because it felt real. It may not have been subtle but it was an effective symbol of complete acceptance. If your partner is willing to sit with you during the good, the bad, and the unsavory vapors, I say your partner is a keeper. And why shouldn’t there be more unpleasant scenes like that portrayed in serious romantic dramas? I’d rather watch a well-placed fart scene than a series of monotonous seriousness where I find myself sitting passively, desperately waiting to be surprised. “The Vow,” directed by Michael Sucsy, was at times too constrained by what people come to expect from a romantic drama, punctuated by bright moments when it seemed free to do whatever felt right for the material. Because of the push and pull, the film was uneven but it was far from a mess.