Paige Thornton (Rachel McAdams) is a happily married art student who’s just landed a very cool, high-profile project. She’s got a boho fab wardrobe, a groovy studio space in Chicago, a witty, handsome husband (Channing Tatum) who adores her, and a bright future. Her life is romantic and wonderful. It’s the kind of life most people only dream of, and the kind of life that usually only exists in the movies to validate our hopes that such an existence could at least happen to somebody. Oh, and her husband owns a music studio. Perfect.
One night there is a terrible car crash and Paige obtains a serious head injury that results in memory loss of the past five years. She wakes up thinking she’s the woman she was five years ago, a woman who lived a very, very different life.
The old Paige was very close to her uber-rich family (who she hasn’t spoken to in years), dressed like a total yupster, hung out with sorority pals, and went to law school per her father’s wishes. Oh, and she was engaged to a man (Scott Speedman) who fits neatly into this scene of Gucci and Chanel and all things “upscale.” It’s a completely different world from her bohemian artist’s life she’s living these days downtown.
So two storylines emerge: 1) the mystery of how uptight yuppie Paige became the free-spirited artist Paige of today, and 2) will she fall in love with her husband again and embrace her current life? Or will she go back to the life she remembers?
Another question emerges that the filmmakers likely did not intend: How does an art student and a struggling recording studio owner afford their fabulous loft downtown AND their two different studio spaces, especially if she’s no longer taking the family money? Ah, movie logic. Best not to question these things.
Anyway, what unfolds is a period of time in which Paige has to discover her own identity again. That includes deciding which career path to resume: artist or lawyer. Deciding which man to love: handsome rich guy or handsome struggling guy who always says the right things and has a wonderful sense of humor and adores her. Deciding whether to remain in the bosom of her family or go it alone again … like she did five years ago for mysterious reasons.
When the mystery of Paige’s departure from richy-rich suburban life is finally revealed, it doesn’t quite hash out. It may explain a rift with her family, but it doesn’t begin to explain why a girl who once donned Chanel now wears FreePeople and has a tattoo. The big emotional “reveal” packs a genuine wallop, thanks largely to a fine performance by Jessica Lange as Paige’s mother, but it doesn’t lend the character’s arc much logic at all.
In fact, almost instantaneously after this revelation comes to light, Paige returns to her art which she hasn’t touched since she woke up from the accident. The correlation between learning that your parents are flawed people and instantly having completely different taste in clothes, food, music and lifestyle (and a different personality!) is tenuous at best. One begins to get the icky feeling that this has all just been one long contrivance to set up a juxtaposition between her two worlds, past and present.
It makes for some humorous moments and creates stark choices that must be made. But it doesn’t feel real. It feels like another one of those things we’re supposed to skip over – like how they afford their lofts and multiple studios spaces downtown. Just don’t think about it, and it all seems pleasant enough.
In fairness, “The Vow” is nicely-made on many levels. The actors are all doing their bit wonderfully well. Rachel McAdams is charming, and knows just when and how to flash that thousand-watt smile. Channing Tatum plays the world’s most perfect husband as convincingly as possible. And the supporting players are solid. Jessica Lange is the stand-out here in one scene that makes the entire movie worthwhile.
Fans of romantic dramas such as “The Notebook” will love this movie. For those folks, I heartily recommend it. For everyone else… not so much.
3 of 5 stars