This weekend, Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams’s based-on-a-true-story amnesia weeper took in $41 million — a number that almost certainly puts it on track to out-gross McAdams’s romantic breakout (and memory-loss-movie pioneer) The Notebook. This, to many, will seem like sacrilege: The Vow in no way lives up to the The Notebook’s good name. But it turns out that despite McAdams and Tatum’s involvement, plus a ripped-from-the-airport-bookstore story, The Vow was actually not written by Nicholas Sparks. Did you know this? Did it change your viewing experience? And what did you think of Channing Tatum’s fedora? Let’s talk about The Vow! Note: as this is a discussion post about a movie, it does in fact contain spoilers.
1. The Vow is based on a true story.
We were as surprised as you are! Nicholas Sparks movie veterans and a memory-loss plotline surely signaled Notebook and Dear John 2 to a good chunk of moviegoers. (It helps that the plot of The Vow is essentially the old-people part of The Notebook, but with Channing Tatum’s unrequited Dear John character.) Did that “based on true events” title freak you out a little? Or did it make the terribleness of certain characters and the non-happy ending a little easier to bear? Speaking of that ending …
2. Aren’t you a little glad Paige’s memory didn’t come back?
We will get to some of the script and casting issues in a minute, but for now: respect to this movie for resisting the urge to magically solve the movie’s problems with a quick “Oh, Rachel McAdams remembers now!” fix. Granted, it was a little easier to avoid this pitfall since the movie is based on a real person who never regained her memory (but who did end up re-marrying her husband). Still, how easy — and unsatisfying — would it have been to change the story? We can almost write the scene: McAdams, standing in the alleyway, yelling the name of the painting she was married in front of and her recipe for making coffee and why she changed her hair and [starts crying]. We’re glad it wasn’t in the movie.
3. Channing Tatum, Uncomfortable Hipster
As Vulture’s Bilge Ebiri noted in his Vow review, “Tatum has to do most of the emotional heavy lifting here as the tortured one, but his pain feels skin deep.” The Tatum-McAdams chemistry is certainly lacking, but we’d also argue that poor Channing is just miscast as a bougie, fedora-wearing music nerd. Museum weddings are not Channing Tatum’s bag! Mostly because you can’t breakdance at a hipster museum wedding, and Channing Tatum should always be dancing. Or stripping. Movement is key here.
4. Rachel McAdams is very committed to playing hugely unlikable characters.
And this one was a doozy. Blueberry mojitos? Gross. As soon as she’s released from the hospital, McAdams turns into a hybrid of her Mean Girls and Notebook characters, all shopping dates and wedding plans — but without the sparkle. Theoretically, we should feel for Paige: She doesn’t know who she is! She gets lost in the middle of Chicago! But McAdams’s trembling lip-bite isn’t as affecting as it used to be, and Paige is just so grating. James Patterson? Law school? Scott Speedman (who looked terrifying)? Come on.
5. How about that Radiohead speech?
This maybe belongs in point three, but it was such a remarkable speech that it deserves its own call-out. Channing Tatum name-checked Thom Yorke at a garden party — that is a sentence we never thought we’d type. But we would love to be proven wrong with a “Lotus Flower” Magic Mike number. Just keep dancing!