Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Vow (2012)

The Vow (2012)
Dir. Michael Sucsy

2 out of 5

Rachel McAdams plays a sculptor married to Channing Tatum in The Vow, and you almost believe it is a union based on her need for a life model. Blessed with the type of body that graces the cover of romance novels and exhibiting the impossible patience seen only in date movies, Tatum is a object of fantasy that fits perfectly into the film's vigorous disregard for reality despite being "inspired by true events." He remains devoted to McAdams, whose memories of their courtship and marriage are erased after a devastating car accident. In the first of many salvos fired against verisimilitude, said tragedy is caused by McAdams' bizarre insistence on vehicular nookie at a downtown Chicago intersection. Yet Tatum resolves to romance her all over again despite the interjections of her disapproving parents (Jessica Lange and Sam Neill) and the looming presence of her squinty ex-fiancé (Scott Speedman).

The Vow is the kind of movie where wardrobe is meant to substitute for character. A post-accident McAdams is suddenly disgusted by her closet of funky, artsy clothes - where "funky" translates to "gym socks" - and distances herself from her recording engineer husband and his flannel-clad hipster friends with her smart sweaters and pearl necklaces. Is it a bad sign that Tatum's friends do not look remotely like anyone who'd actually hang out with him? Furthermore, anyone in a suit is bad news. The movie promotes a weird false dichotomy between a fulfilling creative life and being a soulless corporate shill: Tatum is stunned when McAdams makes the indefensible choice to return to law school. He tries to remind her how much she enjoyed her previous routine, which engenders the inadvertently depressing description "you would check emails, pay the bills, then go work in your studio all day." What more could a girl want?

Much of the film's first half is a pedestrian slog through the couple's feeling-out phase, more of a breakup song than a love story. The Vow eventually circles back around to what makes them nice people, and nicer together, but it all comes too little, too late. McAdams finds Tatum inoffensive at best for a large chunk of the movie, but it's not so shocking when his character seems so airheaded and juvenile. Tatum lands a few choice one-liners but reacts to almost everything with the flat, leaden expression of a runway model. He has the body of a Chippendale and the mind of a lovesick eighth-grader; he is a man rudderless without the passwords to his online bill pay accounts. McAdams isn't served well by her character, either. She appears as a lively, intelligent woman before the accident, then reverts to damsel-in-distress mode. She's frustratingly oblivious to her parents' high-pressure sales tactics, neglecting to ask questions as she happily climbs into their creepy van of familial guilt. "It's like getting a free do-over!" she coos. You may want one too after seeing The Vow.

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