I love that the producers of The Vow says it’s “based on a true story.” That’s the moral equivalent of Days of Our Lives flashing those words across bottom of the screen when they bring an evil twin back from the dead.
Not to suggest that certain elements of The Vow aren’t true. I’m sure that there was a lovely young married couple and I’m sure that after a car accident she forgot who her husband was (indeed, they show the “real life Paige and Leo” during the end credits.) But what makes The Vow a guilty pleasure of the highest order is the structural elegance of its completely far-fetched premise. (Well, that and Channing Tatum’s abs.)
Okay, so here’s the ripped-from-the-headlines story: Paige (Rachel McAdams) and Leo (Channing Tatum) meet cute, fall in love cute, and even get married cute (sneaking after hours into the Chicago Institute of Art and reading handwritten vows off the menu of their favorite trendy café). Then, car accident—boom, bad thing. Paige wakes up and thinks Leo is one of her doctors. (The fact that she thinks Channing Tatum could ever be a doctor is the first sign of serious brain trauma.)
But here’s the far-fetched yet elegant part: Paige remembers her life up until the point she stopped being the dutiful daughter, ditched law school and moved to Chicago to become an artist. The last thing she remembers, she was an overgrown sorority sister with a dishy boyfriend (Scott Speedman) and a J. Crew wardrobe.
And since she hasn’t spoken to her parents (Jessica Lange and Sam Neill) since she moved to the city, they’re all-too-thrilled to get their baby girl back and are secretly conspiring to get Leo out of the picture.
Silly, yes? But fun, as we watch as Leo tries to get his wife to remember her inner-boho and fall in love with him all over again. Not a romance pic cliché is left unturned—including a late night skinny dip between Leo and Paige—but you’re definitely rooting for her to snap out of it and fall into his studly arms.
Not totally sure if soulful meathead Tatum is the best choice to play a downtown hipster—although he does wear a jaunty hipster-approved hat—but he has an undeniable basic appeal (to women, at least). And McAdams reminds us why she was once considered a legitimate heir to Julia Roberts throne—not only is she adorable, with those laughing eyes and frisky grin, but she can actually act: she taps into Paige’s terror and confusion over her predicament.
Has McAdams struck romantic gold again, as she did with The Notebook? Not quite. (Channing Tatum, handsome as you are, sir, you are no Ryan Gosling.) But if Valentine’s Day pics are essentially advertisements for love, meant to make women swoon and help men get lucky—well, yeah, mission accomplished.