The Vow


 

The Vow

Ghost much?

(2012) Romance (Screen Gems) Channing Tatum, Rachel McAdams, Sam Neill, Jessica Lange, Scott Speedman, Jessica McNamee, Wendy Crewson, Tatiana Maslany, Lucas Bryant, Joey Klein, Joe Cobden, Jeananne Goossen, Dillon Casey, Shannon Barnett. Directed by Michael Sucsy

 

We think we know what path we’re on; we often have our lives mapped out, our expectations firmly in mind. We know where we’re going and how we’re going to get there. Then, life throws us a big-ass curveball.

That’s what happened to Paige (McAdams) and Leo (Tatum), a couple of young Bohemian newlyweds living in Chicago. He owns a recording studio and she is a sculptress. They are blissfully in love – and one winter’s night a truck smashes into their car from behind, propelling her through a windshield (and let that be a lesson to those who don’t wear their seatbelts) and puts her in a medically sustained coma while the swelling of her brain heals.

When she wakes up, she has no memory of the last five years – including the four in which she met and married Leo. In her mind she’s still in Law School at Northwestern and engaged to Jeremy (Speedman). Leo is a complete stranger to her.

What Leo has to tell her is that she left Law School, matriculating at the Chicago School of Art, left Jeremy to go find herself and these decisions had estranged her from her parents, Bill (Neill) – a lawyer himself – and Rita (Lange) as well as her sister Gwen (McNamee) who is to get married herself shortly.

Leo’s task is to hope that her memory returns and to do what he can to jog her memory back but failing that, to get her to fall in love with him a second time. But does Paige really want to – and more importantly, is that really the key to her happiness?

The last question is really the most intriguing one and what lies at the crux of the movie. As Leo tries his darnedest to help Paige find her way back to him, she grows more and more unhappy and frustrated. Leo is eventually forced to face the fact that the woman he loved may well have been killed in the accident, her body filled with a completely new person. It’s a heartrending conundrum.

And the heartbreaking thing is that this is based on something that actually happened – to Kim and Krickitt Carpenter. Although the events of the film were Hollywood-ized somewhat, the basics all happened.  In their case, part of their written marriage vows are what convinced Krickitt to stay with Kim. While Paige sees her vows written on a menu of the Cafe they both frequent, you never get the sense that those vows were a deciding factor. Also, the Carpenters are both devout Christians which never shows up in this film.

All that aside it’s still a decent enough movie. Released in time for Valentine’s Day, it is most definitely Cinema of the Heart. Tatum, not the most expressive of actors, is actually not so bad here; he can definitely do earnest and gets a lot of chance to show off that particular emotion. McAdams is very pretty but hasn’t been challenged much in her film roles; she really isn’t here as her character is mostly befuddled and frustrated. Rarely does Paige really get to express what’s going on inside her head, which the movie might have benefitted from.

Neil who is doing some of the best work of his career in Fox’s “Alcatraz,” has a role that recalls elements of his first major film role as the grown-up anti-Christ in Omen III: The Final Conflict. Bill is ruthless, suspicious of a son-in-law he has no relationship with (as the movie unfolds we discover that Bill and Rita hadn’t met Leo in the flesh until visiting their stricken daughter in the hospital) and very manipulative. He’s a bit of a snake oil salesman and Neil does that kind of thing very well.

Lange is one of the best actresses America has ever produced and she gets a chance to show off her abilities in one very moving monologue that she delivers to McAdams when one of the skeletons in Bill’s closet resurfaces, explaining to both Paige and the audience the real cause behind the estrangement between Paige and her family. It is Oscar-caliber stuff, although the odds of her getting a nomination are virtually nil. I’d happily cast her in any film I was going to make, were I a Hollywood filmmaker.

There is plenty of schmaltz, certainly but the underlying conflict of doing what’s right for the person you love versus doing what’s right for yourself elevates this somewhat above most romantic films. While this isn’t what I’d call a Valentine’s Day classic, it certainly has plenty of heart and more than enough to tug at the heartstrings of women and more sensitive men. Yes, in some ways Leo is too good to be true but I think that when a man loves a woman as strongly as he does, he’ll do anything to make her happy – at his own expense if need be. And that is why love is stronger than anything else in life; because that willingness to sacrifice matters, even in the small things. It speaks highly of humans in a way little else about our existence does.

REASONS TO GO: Inspiring story. Lange magnificent in a supporting role.

REASONS TO STAY: Not as much chemistry between the leads as I would have liked.

FAMILY VALUES: There is some sexual content and partial nudity. There is also an accident scene which isn’t terribly graphic or startling and a few choice words in places.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The cafe in which Paige works (and Leo and Paige frequently visit) is called Cafe Mnemonic; a mnemonic is a means of helping someone remember something by associating it with a word or phrase; it is a foreshadowing of Paige’s memory issues later in the film.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 2/21/12: Rotten Tomatoes: 30% positive reviews. Metacritic: 43/100. The reviews are pretty much poor.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Notebook

ART LOVERS: Paige’s sculptures are actually pretty interesting. They were in reality created by Cameron S. Brooke.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW:The Secret World of Arrietty

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Assassination of a High School President


Assassination of a High School President

Reece Daniel Thompson has an unusual medical condition in which he is unable to see pretty girls, which amuses Mischa Barton no end.

(2008) Faux Noir (Yari Film Group) Mischa Barton, Reece Daniel Thompson, Bruce Willis, Michael Rapaport, Kathryn Morris, Melonie Dias, Josh Pais, Luke Grimes, Patrick Taylor, Zoe Kravitz, Aaron Himmelstein, Joe Perrino, Tanya Fischer. Directed by Brett Simon

Teenagers are kind of stuck with a raw deal. They have little life experience but the pressure is on them to be cool, conform – and yet stand out. Of late, there have been a few movies here and there that have attempted to make teenaged film noir – movies like Brick and The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys come immediately to mind – complete with world-weary tough guy narration, albeit hipped up to sound somewhat semi-authentic although usually by the time the film is released the jargon is hopelessly out-dated.

This falls in that school, although with considerably less polish. In this film, Bobby Funke (Thompson) – whose last name is pronounced “funk” but is consistently pronounced as “funky” throughout the movie – is an ambitious sophomore at the prestigious Catholic school St. Donovan. He is looking to nab himself a spot in Northwestern University’s summer journalism program, despite the small issue that he has been unable to finish a story to date.

His editor Clara (Dias) has him do a piece on the student body president Paul Moore (Taylor). Moore’s a basketball star and like many of the students at St. Donovan’s finds enjoyment in bullying Bobby. When Principal Kirkpatrick (Willis) discovers that SAT tests have been stolen from the school safe, he rounds up a bunch of the usual suspects, including Paul.

Paul is essentially ready to give up but at the urging of Francesca Facchini (Barton), one of the most beautiful and popular girls in school, he begins to dig into the case of the stolen SATs. All of the evidence points to Paul being the culprit. Bobby finally completes an article which prompts Principal Kirkpatrick to open Paul’s locker where the missing tests are found.

Clara submits Bobby’s article to Northwestern which wins him the coveted scholarship to the summer internship. Bobby goes from zero to hero, but his nature is to take nothing at face value and as he begins to dig deeper, he discovers a deeper, more sinister conspiracy going on.

This is one of those movies that takes itself far more seriously than it deserves to. While Thompson gives it a game effort, much of the dialogue and characterization makes him look and sound like an arrogant prick, not exactly an ideal way to get the audience to identify with him. Barton, taking on the role of the femme fatale, has the look down pat but not the sensuality quite yet. Don’t get me wrong – she’s a beautiful, sexy woman – but there is a difference between being beautiful and sexy and being a femme fatale; it’s beautiful and sexy on steroids.

Willis is fun to watch here; not only is he the school principal, he’s a one-legged ex-Marine who bleeds red, white and blue and no doubt has an American eagle tattooed on his tush. There are roles that call for excessive scenery chewing and Willis chows down with gusto. Make no mistake; Willis can go over-the-top with the best of them and so his casting here could only be called inspired.

Too bad the filmmakers didn’t take Bruno’s lead. Movies that turn out to be hip are generally efforts that don’t try to be, and you can tell this one is trying real hard. I don’t have an issue with teens doing noir – I just have a problem with teen noir done badly. There are some moments here that are enough to redeem this somewhat (generally the ones with Willis in them) but by and large this is one that you haven’t heard of for a reason.

WHY RENT THIS: Willis has a good time with the movie. 

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Regards itself as being much cooler than it actually is. Hard to get behind characters who are arrogant and spoiled. 

FAMILY VALUES: There is a little bit of nudity, a good deal of sexual content, a whole lot of bad language and a fair amount of drug and alcohol use, the lot of it done by teens.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The movie was to have received a wide release on February 27, 2009 but the distribution company’s bankruptcy prevented it. It was released direct-to-DVD on October 6, 2009.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $69,564 on an unreported production budget; there is absolutely no way this movie made any sort of profit.

FINAL RATING: 5/10

TOMORROW: Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat