It’s that time of year- stores are littered with guys picking up last minute cards and chocolates for their significant other, restaurants are overly packed with couples celebrating their love and at least one movie is pushed out to cash in on the Valentine’s Day holiday. This year that movie is THE VOW- which surprisingly enough was just tolerable enough to not hate that I would inevitably have to take my own wife to see it. Also to my surprise one that doesn’t overly try to cash in on the more loathsome aspects of chick flicks.
Leo (Channing Tatum) and Paige (Rachel McAdams) have been a happily married couple for about five years. Their relationship however suffers a massive setback when after a night at the movies a truck smashed into the rear of the car they are in and Paige wakes in the hospital with no memory of Leo or their relationship. With Paige now in the mindset that she is back into a life she had long since abandoned before meeting Leo, he must try and find a way to make her remember how in love they were- something that Paige is not entirely convinced was right for her.
THE VOW is undeniably chick flick material- hot co-stars, lovers torn apart must find a way back together- the proof is all there. What I like about it is that while it doesn’t come out without the chick flick pitfalls that are so common, it always has this hint that things may not end so happily ever after. It paints a realistic picture that for all intents and purposes makes the film much more entertaining than I would have ever thought it would. Some parts may be paint by numbers and the portrayal of a married couple might just be the cliff notes of what marriage is really like in what’s ostensibly the “honeymoon” stage, but the intent and final product wasn’t near as painful as I had feared. That and someone must have tipped off the writers that I’m a huge Chicago Cubs fan and have a weakness for red velvet cake because both are referenced at several points in the film- plus it takes place in Chicago, a city I love.
Paige’s accident happens right at the get go and from there the film cuts back and forth from the early days of their relationship to present day basically to compare and contrast her personality then and the personality the accident reverted her back to. It’s after the accident that we as an audience as well as Leo see just how unlikable Paige was before Leo actually met her. She’s high strung, uptight and a bit of a snob where her personality at the time she met Leo was carefree, goofy and extremely easy going. Paige’s competing personalities make the film a little more interesting than I expected, because she not only struggles with if she was actually in love with Leo but also with the fact that she has to fill in the blanks of why she abandoned a promising law career, disowned her parents and ultimately ran away from her pampered life.
Leo on the other hand has to fight with the fact that his wife only remembers being engaged to another man, Jeremy (Scott Speedman), her parents that he never met are trying to turn her against him and the fact that the girl he loves not only doesn’t remember him but is back in a mindset that was the complete opposite of who fell in love with him to begin with. For any guy this is a daunting mountain to climb and for the most part the film conveys that in interesting ways. Most of the time rather than painting Channing Tatum as the faultless romantic with endless tricks up his sleeve to make the girls melt; he instead resorts to begging McAdam’s character to just accept something she can’t remember. Eventually when he embraces making her fall in love with him again even that is more down to Earth than unrealistically romantic which with a character like Leo would have been a stretch.
THE VOW is not without moments designed only for the ladies since the film finds ways to put Channing Tatum shirtless and even manages to expose his backside in a moment I’m sure will have the ladies glued to the screen. Aside from those shots most everything else can be interpreted as straight romantic drama that leans more to the chick flick genre than heavy drama.
Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum do have a decent amount of chemistry and they both have experience starring in chick flicks and both do a decent job on screen. Most of the other characters are straight clichés of the genre and don’t have the depth to take the material to a memorable drama. That’s not to say that someone like Sam Neil is unwatchable, but I still prefer him being chased by dinosaurs.
Movies like THE VOW carry an unseen aura by most that say it is destined to be a hapless exercise is exploiting the female demographic and one that forces guys against their will to accompany their SO or face the consequences. I’m not here to make excuses or to give the film a complete pass to avoid backlash by the female audience that loves these types of films. Plain and simple, I did not hate THE VOW and I say that as shocked as any red blooded male reading this that would much rather see explosions and gunfire when going to the theater on a weekend. Is it perfect? Not by a long shot, but as someone with a bit of a softer side it did manage to make me smile at some of the character dynamics between leads and even sympathize with them on more than one occasion. That being said THE VOW is first and foremost a chick flick with its fair share of issues that looks to please its female audience first and seeking full approval of a male audience was never in the cards.