Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Vow [2012]

MPAA (PG-13) CNS/USCCB (A-III) Roger Ebert (2 1/2 Stars) Fr. Dennis (2 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Ebert's review -

The Vow (directed by Michael Sucsy, screenplay by Abby Kohn, Marc Silversteen and Jason Katims, story by Stuart Sender) is a nice enough date movie, released just before Valentine's Day asking the question: What would you do if the love of your life had an accident and forgot who you are?  Would you try to win her (or him) back?  The answer is, of course, yes, ... just not too creepily ... and, of course, we get to watch Leo try to do this.  (With the script on his side, he does very, very well.  On the plus side, however, his character does offer a rather good if idealized example of how to go about these things). 

Though based on a true story, it's important to remember that it's Hollywood telling it, so the edges are smoothed out.  Indeed, so smoothed out are the edges that an Indian friend of mine from my religious order [Intl] [USA] called it "the first true Bollywood [1] [2] movie made by Hollywood" ;-). 

Still, I maintain my belief that even in the schlockiest story there are usually elements that make it more complicated than it may initially seem, which indeed make the story "work."  If a movie were "just schlock" we wouldn't go at all.

The Vow is no different.  There is more to the movie than the schlock and yet not so much that it becomes overwhelming and gets us complaining "hey wait a minute ..."   Older foggies like me would recognize a nice message of reconciliation the film.  And I admit that despite the still rather high "schlock" content of the story, I am positive that when I was in my 20ies, I would have certainly considered the film a really, really nice film to take a date to.  Of course, with that kind of a recommendation, "Hollywood wins." But then I don't mind because I've obviously seen Hollywood as more of a "good if at times overly talkative friend" than an "enemy" here (I just hate its current push for 3D ... at least this film wasn't done that way ... yet ... but that's another story ... ;-).

So what is the story here?  Leo (played by Channing Tatum) a recording engineer and Paige (played by Rachel McAdams) a sculptor, graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago (my ma' was actually a graduate of the school ;-) are a lovely (and surprisingly married if alas, not in any Church ...) "bohemian" couple living in Chicago and as happy as could be.

Yet, one snowy winter's evening, coming home from an "art house theater" (the Music Box) in their car, stopped at a stop sign on a seemingly empty street and in a romantic mood, they suddenly get hit by salt truck...  Boom! Paige flies through the windshield. Leo apparently still with his seat belt on crumples into the steering wheel / airbag.  The movie resumes some weeks later ...

Paige had been kept in an induced coma for the weeks that had followed the accident while the swelling in her head decreased.  When she comes out of it, she has memory loss.  Specifically, she can't remember anything of the previous 5 years, that is, she can't remember anything since before her meeting Leo.  He is the first person she sees when she comes to, but she thinks he's the doctor ...

The actual doctor (played by Wendy Crewson) tells Leo that, well, with traumatic brain injury, it's hard to know what's going to happen, but perhaps after sometime she would fully regain her memory.

Now admitting that this is a story, but also admitting that it's based on a true story, I found the point at which her memory was lost fascinating: She woke-up to think that she was ONCE AGAIN a happy LAW STUDENT at Northwestern University engaged to a fellow law student named Jeremy (played by Scott Speedman).  The morning after she wakes up, she calls her parents, Bill and Rita Thornton (played by Sam Neill and Jessica Lange respectively) who weren't hospital before and may not have even known that she had an accident.  What the heck just happened?

The parents come rushing to the hospital.  They're happy to see her, happy also that she's happy to see them, and frankly very happy that she didn't seem to remember the last 5 years.

There's a point in the story in which Bill offers to pay Leo "to just go away" now that they (the parents) "had their daughter back."  Again what the heck happened?

Leo hadn't kidnapped Paige and she hadn't joined any cult.  But it becomes clear that Paige must have had some sort of traumatic experience even before the accident that had led her to so radically change her life in the first place -- leave law school to enter into art school, dump Jeremy, cut ties with her family, and finally meet and marry Leo.

The rest of the story is about her (with her amnesia) figuring out and the audience figuring out what that story was.  Knowing something of making radical changes in life, I do think that the movie does give a plausible, indeed (within conventions of a film like this) realistic explanation.  Something obviously happened around the time that she made her first break ...

I'm not going to tell you "what happened" because that would really spoil the story.   And I would also say to parents and to potential date goers that the movie deals with "what happened" nicely, gently and from a distance.  So unlike a fair number of romantic comedies of recent years, one does feel midway through the picture like "Hey, I thought this was supposed to be a light romantic comedy, why all this stuff now?"

So I would recommend the film to all.  The PG-13 rating is, for once, truly appropriate, and pre-teens would probably just be bored rather than "potentially damaged" by the film ;-).

Finally, I would like to write a little here on the value of getting married in the Church (or the Church of one's tradition) as opposed to what the couple did in the movie.  Yes, I do "get" young people (both today and before ... hey, people like me, and my parents, and their parents ... were in our/their twenties before as well).  But I do find it somewhat "egotistical" if a couple chooses to define everything on their own.  There is a value to submitting one's relationship (and really one's life) to something "bigger" than oneself.  Yes, Churches can seem at times "archaic," "behind the times" and all that.  However, they are repositories of knowledge, past experience (millenia of past experience...).  My ma' loved to remind me when I was a late teen and and in my early twenties that "Nothing is new under the sun ..."   (Eccl 1:9).

So I do believe that it is worth it to "remain in dialogue" with "the family" with the Church, with the Traditions of one's past.  I can also say that when I was in my 20s, my parents knew little; when I was in my 30s, they started to know more; and now in my mid/late 40s, boy were they wise ;-).

So while I do understand that it could be cool to get married "skydiving, by Elvis," (or in my case,  it could have been "kinda cool" to take my vows "in front of Yoda," ;-), the families that we have are indeed, the families that we have and the Church(es) that we have are the Churches that we have.  And it is ultimately a sign of maturity to be able to navigate and reconcile choose to become part of the pasts that we were given.

Our Creator has loved us, but Our Creator also loved our parents, grandparents, great grandparents and all the way down to our first parents ... and despite each of us screwing-up a number of times along the way.

Anyway, enjoy the film, but young couples, when you "find the one" have the courage to really get married and leave "Elvis" (or "Yoda") for later ... ;-)

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1 comment:

  1. The film may be entirely unafraid of predictability, but it’s sweet, shiny and well acted; essentially it delivers exactly what it says on the box. It also helps that Tatum and McAdams are good here as well, but nothing that they haven’t already done before. Good review Dennis.