"The Vow" is a slick tearjerker that tugs at every emotion one can possess, then vows to wrestle them even further to the ground. It's meant to make you laugh and cry, but most of all, the film makes no bones about it's similarities to a similarly wrenching movie that also starred Rachel McAdams entitled "The Notebook."
In "The Notebook," McAdams' character, Allison, pushes and pulls Ryan Gosling's character, Noah, into a love mush of confusion. In "The Vow," Channing Tatum ends up on the receiving end.
Leo (Tatum) and Paige (McAdams) meet by chance one day, of course. They fall in love. They are true soul mates. She's a carefree artist who is working on a big sculpture commission. He has taken his love of music and turned it into a successful recording studio, doing so on her urging.
One night after seeing a movie (I was hoping they would have just come from "The Notebook," but that would have been way too cheesy) on a wintry evening, their car is hit from behind by a snow plow. She suffers brain trauma that will eventually lead to memory loss. Her recuperation is quick with no outward problems save for a few tiny scars. What's been lost, however, is five years of her life that have been zapped from her brain, which happens to be the crucial time when she met and married Leo.
While "The Vow" could have been a Lifetime Movie of the Week about a woman trying to regain her memory and taking back her life, the script surprisingly downplays this particular part of the drama. Instead, it wisely puts us into the world of Leo, showing us through his looking glass about what it is like to be erased from someone's memory.
Tatum embraces the role as a romantic soul who has met the woman of his dreams. He's almost too good to be true ? a hunk of a guy that's sensitive, too. Before the accident, when he asks that she move in with him, he spells out the proposal in blueberries after making her pancakes. Post accident, he tries to recreate their first date, including a swim in Lake Michigan, so that may be the memories will come flooding back to her.
McAdams is able to convincingly play a woman stuck between a past that becomes more familiar to her than her present, which isn't even a blur. Her coldness of not wanting to fit back into the life she built with husband Leo gives way for the sympathy to channel entirely into his camp.
Jessica Lange plays Paige's mother and while some could say this isn't really a Lange-worthy film, she still shows her Oscar-winning ways. In a small scene where she tells the story of her own vows to her husband (played by Sam Neill), Lange fills the screen with emotion. Here is where you'll reach for the hankie even more than the other "Vow" scenes that are meant to provoke tons of tears.
In true Hollywood fashion, the story of the real "Vow" couple has been dramatized for the big screen. However, Kim and Krickitt Carpenter, who live in New Mexico and now have two children, said in interviews that they are pleased with the film and, especially with its PG-13 rating. Krickitt still has no recollection of about two years of her life before the accident.
This is a chick flick perfect for a "Valentine's Day" date night. When there's a run on blueberries at grocery stores around the country, we'll know why.