Monday, February 13, 2012

The Vow: Or, What Not To Do If Your Spouse Has Amnesia


I really had hopes that The Vow might actually be a mid-grade romance, but it steers very quickly into the dippy end of the pool.

Which is sad because the romance and chick flick genres have been near nonexistent lately. What happened? In the days of old, there were releases like While You Were Sleeping, You've Got Mail, 13 Going on 30, The Lake House, Sleepless in Seattle, The Notebook, Return to Me, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and second-tier rom-coms like Win a Date with Tad Hamilton, Sweet Home Alabama, Just Like Heaven, Kate and Leopold, and even the third-tier-but-still-watchable Serendipity, Leap Year, The Proposal, and Music & Lyrics.

(Okay - I know a lot of people who would argue a second-tier slot for Proposal, but there were plot holes the size of Alaska in that movie.  Please do not ask me to describe them.)

The best chick flick I've watched in the last year? WAS NOT AN ENGLISH LANGUAGE FILM. I say this not as a slam against foreign-language films (which I enjoy much), but as a statement about how the country that produced It Happened One Night and An Affair To Remember has lost its touch.

What do we have instead? The Twilight franchise. And now, The Vow.

If you need a roadmap for how to deal with a spouse who cannot remember your Great Love, do not look to The Vow. It will not help you.

The basic premise: Paige and Leo are in Love.  They've been married for four years, and they're still honeymooning it.  Flashbacks show us their wedding vows, which sound like they were written by screenwriters People who are Seriously in Love.  They are truly MFEO.

And then there's a car accident.

Beware: Spoilers ahead. If you don't want to know what happens, stop here. Turn back. Otherwise, read on.  Because this is where it gets funny. And dippy.

We know from the trailers that there's a car accident. But what's funny about it is that we're pretty sure it's going to happen long before it actually happens. Why? Because they're driving in the snow and paying no attention to the road. Also, the Fake Driving Effects people make it look like they're going along at 40 mph, which when it's seriously snowing, and there's snow on the ground, and you're not in a four-wheel-drive vehicle or on a major thoroughfare, it unwise.  As is singing I would do anything for love with your eyes closed while driving. In the snow.

I wish acting schools would address Driving Acting.  I know it's hard to emote while keeping your eyes on the fake road, but how about a go at being remotely realistic?

Speaking of, the couple's car makes a full and complete stop at a stop sign. Paige makes a comment about making babies in a car, even unhooking her seat belt and leaning (in the truly While You Were Sleeping sense) in for a kiss.

Now, they're at a stop sign. THEY'RE NOT EVEN PARKED, AND THEY'RE GOING TO MAKE OUT HERE? HAVE A GO AT MAKING A BABY??? AT A STOP SIGN???  We don't know how far Paige was planning on taking this when their car is hit by a truck, which sends them into a pole. Paige shoots through the windshield.

Now, I know she just took her seat belt off. But since their car was manufactured within the last fifteen years (from the looks of it), I'm guessing it had rudimentary airbags.

Either way, none are deployed, and both Paige and Leo wind up in the hospital.

He's pretty much fine. She's in a medically-induced coma. When she awakes, she does not remember Leo, and is kind of horrified to find out that he's her husband.

This is where casting becomes and issue.  Leo is played by Flavor of the Month Channing Tatum.  Having a woman waking up to being married to Channing Tatum (and not being happy about it) is kind of like a guy waking up to be married to Brooklyn Decker: he may prefer brunettes, but without someone else claiming to be Spartacus his wife, he'll probably decide his fate could be far, far worse.

NOW. If they'd cast someone more like Ryan Reynolds, who's more of an everydude (or Ryan Gosling, though we've been there, seen that with Rachel McAdams - but who knows?).  Or even Mark Ruffalo, who's my favorite Hollywood Everyguy.  I find the Everyguy characters to be far more interesting, because they don't have the smoulderingly obvious good looks factor going on.  I can't be alone in this - look at Tom Hanks' career.

Where was I? Right. The hospital. Well, Paige's parents turn up, and they're cut from the Richard and Emily Gilmore cloth, just with less interesting lines or redeeming characteristics. Two problems: they want to take Paige home with them, and they've not actually met Leo.

This is because Paige is estranged from her family, friends, and everything to do with her life from a time shortly before she met Leo.  So now that she can't remember ANY of it, there's a problem.

Now, people change. I get it.  House doesn't think so, but I think people do to a certain extent. But how much becomes the question?  Because if I lost all memories of my life pre-Danny, I would still think

a.) That tall guy, he's pretty cute.
b.) Hey! I'm a writer! That's pretty cool.
c.) I like the clothes currently in my closet - especially that flippy Juicy Couture dress that my alleged husband just told me he picked out for me for my birthday. He must really get me!

But no, Paige does not feel this way. She only goes home with Leo because he produces a voice mail she left for him as evidence of their mutual affection.  Because for some reason, they exist in a universe without Facebook, Twitter, text-messaging, or portable photographs. Or smart phones (which they both have).  He can't give her ANYTHING but a voice mail??

The upside of this is that she's kind of broadsided when she watches their wedding video, with those vows, that are delivered not dissimilarly to a certain speech from Last of the Mohicans.  The look on Paige's face is kind of awesome, as she realizes that it's possible she married a stalker: this man will not let her get away easily.

At this stage, we are suspending much disbelief. We are believing that Paige now has no ties to her former life. Her tastes (cardigans and sheath dresses vs. boho anything) and habits (omnivore to vegetarian) and literacy (her favorite book was James Patterson's The Beach House, a statement that frankly ought to have encouraged Leo to just walk away) and career path (law vs. ceramic sculpture artist) have changed THAT MUCH. Also, she's so not remotely attracted to Leo (as played by - let's remember - Channing Tatum) that she's treating him as though he's, say, Jonah Hill (bless him).

That's a lot of disbelief suspension.

Just sayin'.

So life goes on. He throws a surprise party for her upon her arrival home, which is a bad idea.  He keeps treating her like the person he knows, when that's not the person she remembers herself to be. Also bad idea.  And he's frustrated that she's not snapping out of it.

Because of that frustration, she moves back in with her parents, thinking it's better (I guess) to join the boomerang generation than stay with the man she's legally married to.  She gets back to her country club-type friends, and helps her sister plan and execute a society wedding.  The sister and her fianc√© think Leo's an okay guy, but Leo isn't necessarily help things by being kinda mopey that things aren't going the way he wants.

Leo decides to take Paige on a date, recreating their old haunts. But is that what she's going to be really, truly into?  If you're dead serious about getting your wife to fall back in love with you, is it better to romance the person she was or the person she is?

I think the reason this bothers me is because marriage is all about choosing to fall in love with the same person, over and over again.  And if they've been married for four years, they should have experienced that, even a little.  It's getting over who you think your spouse should be and paying attention to who they are.

The date goes well, but they argue over something later - probably the guy she was formerly engaged to.  And Paige's dad suggests they divorce, citing Leo's lack of insurance coverage and overall financial strain.

And you know what? Leo eventually does give up and signs divorce papers.  This guy who sang about doing anything for love - he gives in.  Even starts dating a blond.

(At which point, I'm thinking, seriously? You just came out of a deliriously happy four-year marriage, which ended - let's be honest, oddly, and you're going to hop back onto the dating circuit within a matter of months??)

Paige goes and gets herself together, discovering WHY she changed her entire life, affirming her previous decisions, and starts getting her life back to where she was in the first place.

And yeah, she and Leo get back together.  But it's not like either of them tried super hard in the first place - if she hadn't discovered her father's secret by accident, what would have happened?  Why would either of them let their marriage hinge on that?

All of that? Not romantic.

So? I hope Rachel McAdams starts getting better scripts, gets a better agent, or both. Because she's too good for The Vow. I loved her in Morning Glory, which you might notice is not in the list above.

That's because it looks like a romantic comedy and smells like a romantic comedy, but not! It's not! It's about friendship and family and working hard at things that matter to you. Great movie, but not a true chick flick.

(Incidentally, same can be said of Julie & Julia. In case you were wondering)

McAdams is dating Michael Sheen, who knows a thing or two about paying his film dues (see: Underworld).  Here's hoping she'll get to do more work with Woody Allen in the future.

There are many reasons why I think the Julian Fellowes-created (and he's crazy brilliant, no?) Downton Abbey is a surprise runaway smash, but one of them is that the main romance between Mary and Matthew is truly romantic. They've both got issues, but they both really love each other. And Bates and Anna? It's the real deal.  I think female viewers (I suspect the male viewers are beyond indifferent) really respond to that.

They don't need the touchy-feely-cutesy-deal, because the simple gesture of Mary sending her stuffed dog to the battlefield with Matthew, and Matthew keeping it no matter what - it means a lot more than a tricked out date night.

Or making out at a stop sign.

1 comment:

  1. Hillary,
    Your posts always make me laugh...and I haven't seen The Vow yet..probably won't, either...but did you know it's based on an actual TRUE story? There's a book by the same same name. The wife's name is Krickitt...can't remember their last names..but you might like that version better :) :) :)
    Oh, Downton Abbey...can't get enough of that show. It's got drama, intrigue, romance, bad characters....and I'm hoping that true love will triumph in the end. Have you been keeping up with all the episodes so far?

    Love and hugs from the ocean shores of CAlifornia, Heather :) :) :)


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