THE VOW

Film Reviews, Words

I will admit this: I am a sucker for romance. It’s more than a guilty pleasure: it’s the highlight of almost anything I consume, including my nerd stuff. Comic books are filled with romance! And sci-fi? Leia + Han and Luke +Mara 4-EVAH! I know that this enjoyment comes at the cost of being a feminist who is not making a feminist choice by consuming this oft problematic genre. While this isn’t always true, such as with one of my favorites, Secretaryit’s true enough that I do include the word “guilty” when talking about enjoying these types of stories. I don’t know even know why relationships and romance and angst affect me so much, if it’s just a part of my sensitive personality or because of how I’ve been socialized by society or what. It doesn’t really matter because, despite knowing better, I seek out the warm fuzzies and dramatic declarations of love that get me every time.

Except in a subpar film like The Vow. Subpar for the genre, even. Despite Rachel McAdams always infectious charm and Channing Tatum’s sweet mumblings and chest muscles, The Vow just didn’t do it for me. Sure, I got a bit misty here and there when the actors on screen did, but that’s a reflex for me, like seeing someone sneeze. Honestly, I could care less about anybody in the film or their romantic happiness. Based on the true story of a woman who loses her memory of the courtship with her husband, The Vow relies too much on stereotypes as stand-ins for personality. At the time of the accident Paige is a successful sculptor, who is in a happy hipster marriage with music engineer Leo. They do quirky things together, to honor their quirky wedding, and their quirky friends and quirky life choices. After her accident, however, Paige reverts to her previous incarnation, a rich preppy law school student. “Real” Paige, who Leo loves and is attempting to get back in love with him, is a vegan and has dark hair and weird crocheted dresses and plays her music loud. “Past” Paige likes sweater sets and eats meat and has blonde highlights. Apparently, family issues sparked Paige into becoming this “true” self, but the before and after are so clichéd, I just couldn’t treat Paige as a substantial person. As if breaking from your family and becoming an artist means you must become the opposite of who you were. That might be true for some people, but that’s rebellion, not self-actualization.

The fact that I was thinking about this in the film, the selling of “alternative” lifestyle to me as personality, shows how little I was invested in the relationship between Paige and Leo. Tatum’s sincere and open performance of a man so desperately in love made me want to care, as Paige also notes in her schmaltzy quote, “I hope one day I can love the way you love me.” Unfortunately, I left the theater still hoping for that feeling…

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