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2/13/2012 9:03:00 AM
MOVIE REVIEW: Hoping for restored memory and love in The Vow
Screen GemsChanning Tatum must woo Rachel McAdams all over again in The Vow.
Screen Gems

Channing Tatum must woo Rachel McAdams all over again in The Vow.

David Kanowsky
Kudos Movie Critic, The Movie Man

In The Vow, Paige and Leo, happily, ecstatically married for four years, emerge from a movie theater on a very snowy night in Chicago. Driving home, their car is battered by a skidding snowplow. Leo is unhurt, but Paige crashes through the windshield and ends up in the hospital in a coma with severe brain damage.

Now, in flashback, we see how they met, dated and fell deeply in love. They married, with each reading self-composed vows that are touching and emphasize the forever aspect of their love. Paige (Rachel McAdams) is an aspiring sculptor and Leo (Channing Tatum) has a music recording studio. Their four years are wonderful together and The Vow is a bit soap-operaish here. We have to mark small touch-points that are integrated into their lives. Their favorite restaurant, the coffee shop they frequent, the park they walk in, etc.

When Paige awakens from the coma, she has no memory of the past several years, especially of her married years. She does not know who this man called Leo is and she does not know she was married. She does not remember that she left law school to take up her pursuit of an art career.

Leo is badly shaken but he resolves to care for her and he wants to believe she will regain her memory. Or, he hopes, she will fall in love with him again. He learns he has to overcome some obstacles. Paige is understandably unnerved at the notion of living with a strange man, and her parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange) show up to bring her home to the family estate. Paige's father is a prominent law figure, which was why she was in law school - unhappily. Leo, in his loving and soothing manner, convinces Paige to give it a try and she consents to stay with him. It doesn't go well. Leo's attempts to trigger some memories by visiting their old haunts have no effect at all. When he tries to arouse her awareness by a word or a touch, no matter how slight, she is annoyed.

At one point, they go to a party of Paige's old pals, from high school. It's a disheartening scene for Leo. She doesn't have the need to lament the years that have passed and she reacts as though graduation was yesterday. She expresses special warmth to her old sweetheart, Jeremy, and that deepens the hurt for Leo.

All through The Vow we feel Leo's frustration and we sense the anguish that Paige is experiencing, not knowing who she really is. The Vow is a story that came from a real life situation. The film's strongest point is the performance of McAdams as Paige who is thoroughly convincing in the search and longing to know who she has become since high school.

I found Tatum less appealing as Leo, but part of that reservation is in the writing of the dialogue. He rarely has anything to say that is not repetitious and he delivers those lines in a monotone most of the time. Sam Neill is very good as Paige's imperious father and there is a very strong scene for Jessica Lange when she pleads for Paige's understanding of her own life situation.

The Vow holds our attention because we want Leo to win Paige back, with her memory of their marriage, or as a new love.

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