You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Vow

Inspired by the case of Kim and Krickitt Carpenter (upgraded to Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams onscreen), "The Vow" reps that most welcome kind of Valentine's Day offering, focusing on the feelings that bring couples closer.

Paige - Rachel McAdams
Leo - Channing Tatum
Rita Thornton - Jessica Lange
Bill Thornton - Sam Neill
Gwen - Jessica McNamee
Dr. Fishman - Wendy Crewson
Lily - Tatiana Maslany
Kyle - Lucas Bryant
Jeremy - Scott Speedman

When a tragic accident erases all memory of a woman’s marriage from her mind, her husband must work overtime to recreate the spark that caused her to fall in love with him, in “The Vow,” a complaisant date-night bauble designed for romantic indelibility, right down to its touching true-story roots. Inspired by the case of Kim and Krickitt Carpenter (upgraded to Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams onscreen), “The Vow” reps that most welcome kind of Valentine’s Day offering, focusing on the feelings that bring couples closer — a recipe for big February B.O. and long-lasting ancillary.

Leo (Tatum) can’t believe his luck. Somehow he managed to wed a woman, Paige (McAdams), he thinks is out of his league. She’s an artist; he runs a small recording studio. Together, they live a seemingly perfect, boho-chic existence … until a dump truck plows through the back of their scrappy hatchback, sending Paige through the windshield and into a coma that leaves her memory partially wiped.

When she comes to in the hospital, she remembers everything up to law school, thinks she’s still in love with former fiance Jeremy (Scott Speedman) and can’t wrap her mind around the idea that she ever would have traded in such a seemingly perfect life to marry Leo.

As if fate isn’t a cruel enough adversary in his efforts to win Paige back, he also has to contend with her family and pesky ex. Sam Neill and Jessica Lange play Paige’s controlling parents, who seize the opportunity of their daughter’s accident to pave over a catastrophic falling-out five years earlier, while Jeremy, fetching yet flat, takes wicked delight in Paige’s inability to remember the reason they broke up.

Had the incident — or some variation of it — not happened to a real couple, auds might chalk it up to the worst possible abuse of Hollywood’s favorite lazy-screenwriting tool: dramatically expedient amnesia. But “The Vow” doesn’t play by the rules of other selective-memory-loss movies, where jagged flashbacks provide glimpses into the protag’s mysterious past, culminating in a well-timed flood of revelation; Paige’s best memories are gone, never to return.

Hence, the pic leans on Leo’s perspective in this seemingly unthinkable situation — his driving force to win her back is the strength of all the personal moments the two of them shared, bundled into a 15-minute greatest-hits reel at the film’s outset: Their meet-cute at the DMV, a thoughtful get-well delivery at the restaurant where she works (Cafe Mnemonic — get it?), etc. As he struggles to win her back, the memories continue to motivate him.

Take a step back, and it’s impossible not to notice that these flashbacks all share one thing in common: They all feature Leo going above and beyond to make Paige happy. If she weren’t so darn pretty, straight male auds might begin to question what’s so special about a woman in such constant need of wooing. Everyone else is encouraged to think he loves nothing more than trying to earn her love, garnishing scene after scene of superhuman patience with close-ups of Tatum’s watery eyes and glimpses of body parts typically reserved exclusively for Paige.

Her dilemma would be easier to swallow if Tatum were less swoon-inducing as the poor sod stuck trying to win her back. He compensates somewhat by delivering his lines in a sort of Neanderthal stupor, downplaying the cockiness of his previous roles. Even so, what teenage girl wouldn’t trade her best memories to wake up in a hospital bed married to the studly “Step Up” star?

Coming off HBO’s critically acclaimed “Grey Gardens” telepic, director Michael Sucsy adapts well to a genre dominated in recent years by Nicholas Sparks adaptations (the casting of McAdams, star of Alzheimer’s weepie “The Notebook,” can be no coincidence). With its stately crane shots and plaintive score, “The Vow” feels as unabashedly sentimental as those melodramas, but resists the cloying impulse to manufacture tragedy for easy tears. It’s also wonderfully specific, fabricating details about Leo and Paige’s relationship against which girls will judge their suitors for decades to come.

Still, as “The Vow” flirts with the fantasy of a woman torn between two handsome and wholly devoted suitors, it feels like an ice-cream shopping spree in which you can have any flavor you want, so long as it’s vanilla. Gone is the suspense of a great love-triangle movie, replaced with the ultra-romantic notion that if the heavens really wanted Leo and Paige to be together, their chemistry would be strong enough to transcend having to start over.

Popular on Variety

The Vow

Production: A Sony Pictures Entertainment release of a Screen Gems, Spyglass Entertainment presentation of a Birnbaum/Barber production. Produced by Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum. Executive producers, J. Miles Dale, Austin Hearst, Susan Cooper. Co-producers, Cassidy Lange, Rebekah Rudd. Directed by Michael Sucsy. Screenplay, Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein, Jason Katims; story, Stuart Sender.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe color), Rogier Stoffers; editors, Nancy Richardson, Melissa Kent; music, Rachel Portman, Michael Brook; music supervisors, Randall Poster, Stephanie Diaz-Matos; production designer, Kalina Ivanov; art director, Brandt Gordon; set decorator, Jaro Dick; costume designer, Alex Kavanagh; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS/DTS), Glen Gauthier; sound designer, Tim Chau; supervising sound editor, Chau; re-recording mixers, David E. Fluhr, Chau, Jeremy Peirson; special effects coordinator, Warren Appleby; special effects supervisor, Tim Barraball; visual effects supervisor, Brendan Taylor; visual effects, Mr. X, Custom Film Effects; stunt coordinator, Rick Forsayeth; assistant director, Jeff Authors; casting, Cathy Sandrich Gelfond, Amanda Mackey. Reviewed at Grauman's Chinese, Hollywood, Jan. 6, 2012. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 104 MIN.

With: Paige - Rachel McAdams
Leo - Channing Tatum
Rita Thornton - Jessica Lange
Bill Thornton - Sam Neill
Gwen - Jessica McNamee
Dr. Fishman - Wendy Crewson
Lily - Tatiana Maslany
Kyle - Lucas Bryant
Jeremy - Scott Speedman

More Film

  • Paul Dano

    'The Batman': Paul Dano to Play The Riddler

    Paul Dano is in talks to join Robert Pattinson in Matt Reeves and Warner Bros. “The Batman,” sources tell Variety. Though the studio would not confirm the role, insiders believe the part Dano would be playing if the deal closes, is the classic comic villain The Riddler. More to come.. Popular on Variety

  • Taylor SwiftMTV Video Music Awards, Arrivals,

    Vivendi's Third Quarter Results Up Nearly 17%, UMG Still Rising

    Vivendi saw its third quarter revenues increase by 16.7% to €3.97 billion ($4.4 billion) compared with the third quarter of 2018, once again boosted by the growth of Universal Music Group, while Canal Plus Group remained stable. For the first nine months of 2019, Vivendi’s revenues reached €11.3 billion ($12.5 billion), an increase of 14.6% [...]

  • This-is-Cristina

    FiGa Films Takes Salma Hayek-Exec Produced ‘This is Cristina’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Leading international sales agency-production-distribution company, FiGa Films, has snagged all worldwide rights to “This is Cristina” (“Ella es Cristina”), the directorial debut of Chilean scribe Gonzalo Maza, who has co-written four of Sebastian Lelio’s films, including his Oscar-winning “A Fantastic Woman” and Berlin Festival winner “Gloria.” “It’s a pleasure to collaborate with Gonzalo, whose writing [...]

  • 180423_A24_Day_03B_0897.jpg

    How Bright Bulbs Enabled 'The Lighthouse's' Tough Black-and-White Shoot

    Early in principal photography on “The Lighthouse,” writer-director Robert Eggers asked cinematographer Jarin Blaschke, who was shooting on black-and-white film stock, if he thought they could capture the look they were going for digitally. Blaschke answered no: Digital wouldn’t let them achieve the texture they had in mind — “what we photography nerds would call [...]

  • Plaza Catedral

    Panama’s Abner Benaim Wraps ‘Plaza Catedral’ Starring Mexico’s Ilse Salas (EXCLUSIVE)

    Panama’s internationally best-known helmer, Abner Benaim (“Ruben Blades Is Not My Name”) has just completed the shoot for his second fiction feature film, “Plaza Catedral,” starring Mexico’s Ilse Salas (“The Good Girls”), and Manolo Cardona (“Narcos”). Salas plays a 42-year old grief-stricken woman, Alicia, who has severed her ties with married life and society. Her [...]

  • Mamoudou Athie

    'The Front Runner's' Mamoudou Athie Joins 'Jurassic World 3'

    Mamoudou Athie has joined the cast of the third installment in Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment’s “Jurassic World” saga. He joins Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, who will reprise their roles from the previous films, as well as Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum, who starred in the original mega-hit “Jurassic Park.” Colin [...]

  • RealD Cinema China

    RealD Launches Premium Cinema Options Worldwide

    Tech company RealD built itself up as the most popular system for projecting 3D in the United States. But lately the novelty has worn off for the format. RealD hasn’t been content sit back and watch as the 3D boom flattened out, though. Now the company is entering the world marketplace with a pair of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content