TBTS Reviews: The Vow – Love, Memory Loss, and Channing Tatum’s Bare Ass
Writing back-to-back chick-centric posts will probably make my fellow Tweed writers scrunch up their noses in disgust, but whatevs. I didn’t plan to write a review of The Vow, but after seeing it with a girlfriend this week, I couldn’t help myself.
The Vow stars Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams in a truish story. Inspired by Kim and Krickett Carpenter, The Vow tells the story of Paige (McAdams), who loses her memory in a car accident and can’t remember falling in love with or marrying her husband, Leo (Tatum). While Paige tries to reclaim her life, Leo has to figure out a way to make Paige fall in love with him again.
Spoilers ahead (but, come on, you know how this will end.)
Like chick lit, rom-coms are a guilty pleasure of mine. I watch most of the films released each year, but only with my girlfriends; I would never dream of dragging my husband to see them (I’m not a monster!). I know that they will be formulaic, and probably eyeroll-inducing, but I can’t seem to help myself. Some are better than others, but overall, the genre leaves much to be desired. When a rom-com is truly good, it stands out. The Vow is not really a rom-com, though there are some funny moments. It’s definitely more of a Nicholas Sparks-type romantic drama, but the quality of the storytelling is really something special.
I expected most of the nearly 2-hour movie to deal with Leo and Paige finding the love that brought them together five years before. This is not that kind of movie. It begins with an uncomfortably graphic accident scene in which Paige receives a head trauma that causes her memory loss. She wakes up in the hospital having lost the last five years of her life, in which she met, fell in love with, and married Leo. The doctors suggest that she go back to her normal life, so she goes home with Leo. The apartment is unfamiliar, she doesn’t like the clothes she owns and doesn’t understand how she became an artist. The last thing she remembers is being in law school and engaged to a man named Jeremy.
The accident reunites Paige with her estranged family, and she finds herself being drawn to them as they are the only people she remembers. She slowly morphs into the Stepford wife she used to be while Leo watches helplessly from the sidelines. As he sees her slip back into the life she lived before she met him, he tries to recreate their relationship from the beginning. “You fell in love with me once,” he tells her. “You can do it again.”
A speedbump on the road back to marital bliss is Jeremy, the ex-fiancé. Played by the always smoldering Scott Speedman, Jeremy is trouble with a capital T from the moment he steps onscreen. Paige is drawn to him, not remembering what made her leave him the first time around. Though he’s dating someone else, he sees this as a second chance with Paige, and makes no bones about pursuing her, much to Leo’s chagrin.
Leo trying to win back her love and Jeremy trying to get a do-over take a backseat to the real drama in this film, that of Paige struggling to regain her memory. Imagine the last major change that happened in your life, and then imagine forgetting it and everything that came after. If you woke up one day with a chance to do it all again, would you do it the same way?
Paige discovered her father (Sam Neill), a distinguished lawyer, was having an affair with a close friend of hers, and she broke all ties with him and her mother (Jessica Lange), who chose to forgive him. She quit law school, moved into the city, and enrolled at the Art Institute of Chicago. She eventually became a well-respected local artist, with lots of beautiful, bohemian friends. She met Leo, a struggling musician who eventually opened his own recording studio. They moved into an open, industrial looking loft on the north side of town, with her own studio in the back. After the accident, Paige forgets all this. She thinks she’s still in law school, still engaged to Jeremy, and still blissfully unaware of what a scoundrel her father is. She has the chance to hang onto the life she discarded before. Does she take it?
Paige eventually rediscovers her father’s affair, decides to quit law school again, and goes back to the city to become an artist. This time around, though, she doesn’t cut all ties to her family, and she forges ahead on the path she was meant to follow all along. That path eventually leads her back to Leo. The movie ends a year after it began, with Paige and Leo having a second first date.
The Vow has all the romantic drama requirements: a once-in-a-lifetime love, heartbreak, separation, reunion, and a little leading man nudity (the only remotely racy scene is that of Channing Tatum’s bare ass as he walks through his apartment… totally gratuitous, totally appreciated). But this film digs deeper than most. The issues it explores are pretty thought-provoking. What would you do if you woke up with part of your life lost? Would you do it all the same or forge a new path? What if the person you pledged your heart to suddenly didn’t love you anymore? Do you fight for them, or admit defeat?
The movie ends with a note about Kim and Krickett. She never regained her memory, but they’ve been together for 20 years and have two lovely children. I hope the same is true for Leo and Paige in their imaginary world. The thing about these kinds of movies is that they always leave you thinking that things might just be alright, in the end.