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The Vow

“My daughter saw it and she thinks it’s the greatest movie ever made,” said the lady behind the counter as I got my ticket for The Vow. “Of course, she’s 19 years old.”

And that’s all you need to know about the only film Hollywood offered up for audiences in a mood for a romantic film this past Valentine’s Day weekend—that it succeeds perfectly at warming the hearts of post-adolescents with no real experience of long term relationships with a story of pretty people who triumph over impossible adversity because, gosh darn it, they love each other.

At least, that’s what young husband Leo (the puppyish Channing Tatum, who resembles Brendan Fraser without the manic edge) tells Paige (Rachel McAdams), his bride of four years, when she awakens from a post-car-accident coma. She doesn’t remember him. Indeed, she doesn’t remember anything from the past five or six years, during which her life changed considerably.

The woman Leo married was a student at the Art Institute of Chicago with a promising future as a sculptor. (Only in movies like this is sculpting a viable career option.) The one who wakes up thinks she’s still a law student, living with her blue blood parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange) and engaged to a young creep in a suit (Scott Speedman), all of whom are happy to have the old Paige back.

Against such odds, what chance does Leo have of regaining his happy home? If you even have to ask that question, you are not the audience for this movie. It’s based on a true story, though only the central premise remains. That’s partly because the real couple that experienced this was too blue collar for Hollywood’s interest (I was amazed to discover halfway through the film that Leo and Paige, who life a comfortably funky life with no lack of creature comforts, are supposed to be “poor”). But the bigger reason is that the reality of a situation like this is too complicated for the kind of simple dramatic arc that mainstream cinema insists on feeding viewers.

So instead, we get a stacked drama in which no one does the obvious things to try to re-acquaint Paige with her life, letting her fall into the hands of characters who couldn’t be more obviously evil if they had moustaches to twirl, accompanied by an endless soundtrack of heart-on-their-sleeve songs. The Vow is more interested in pushing the buttons of an undemanding audience and taking them on a programmed ride than in being true to its story.

Watch the trailer for The Vow

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