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The Vow: Unapologetic Hollywood Romance
Paige (McAdams) and Leo (Tatum), a very happily married couple, get into an awful car crash. While Leo makes a full recovery, Paige loses her memory of the last five years of her life; the period of time during which she quit law school, abandoned her image obsessed, preppy ways, cut off ties with her family, became an artist and met, fell in love with and married Leo.
She wakes up from her coma to a husband who she doesn’t remember and parents who are overjoyed that she’s forgotten about their dispute. While Paige’s parents try to bring her back to the way of life that she’d rebelled against, Leo tries to help her remember why she’d left all that behind in the first place. Fighting for a wife who doesn’t remember him and is a completely different person than the one he knew, Leo tries to get her to fall in love with him again.
The Vow has a surprise up its sleeve; Tatum’s acting skills finally make an appearance. His comedic turn in 21 Jump Street was a hilarious surprise but The Vow allows him to flex some more dramatic muscles. His character basically boils down to a Prince Charming type guy who believes in soul mates and happily ever after and he actually manages to pull it off.
Instead of simply playing Leo as a live action Disney prince, he injects his character with a heavy amount of sorrow, hurt and bewilderment. Leo is the film’s emotional core and Tatum’s performance is occasionally heartbreaking. McAdams, while as compelling as ever, offers a mishmash of her previous characters. As previously showcased in Midnight in Paris and The Notebook, she has perfected the art of making sympathetic characters out of stuck up snobs.
The film rarely gets unbearably cheesy, setting it apart from your run of the mill Sparks adaptation. It gets mushy, emotional and sappy, but it’s more likely to make you smile than roll your eyes. Leo’s pain and heartbreak combined with Paige’s family’s delight at having their daughter back, gives the film a level of grit that keeps it from becoming overly cloying. However, the secret of the film’s success is the leads, who have great chemistry and manage to pass off some of the cheesiness as bearable.
The Vow is just pure Hollywood in all the best ways. Cute messages written in blueberries, gorgeous bohemian style flats and artist studios, beautiful people wearing beautiful clothes, a happy ending in the snow, and so on. It takes a certain type of temperament to stomach something as unabashedly sentimental and cheesy as this, but, for the right audience, it’s catnip.
The film starts off really well - crackling - with the kind of friendship between Jason and Julie that only exists in the fiction but makes you jealous of what the characters have anyhow. It’s almost Woody Allen-ish - the dialogue’s fast, hilarious and the chemistry between Westfeldt and Scott sizzles. It’s slightly after the baby arrives - once Julie and Jason start dating other people to be specific - that the film devolves into your regular romantic comedy. It’s not bad, but it’s nothing special and doesn’t live up to the promise shown in the first half and to the overall premise. The film takes the most predictable, least controversial, path, becomes an ode to true love and the nuclear family, and is consequently barely distinguishable from the rest of its ilk.
Do you believe in love at-first-sight? Or are you more of a pragmatist who prefers to keep your head cool and out of the clouds? Whichever side of the fence you choose to sit on, Richard Linklater’s masterpiece will have you hooked.
It’s been eighteen years since the world was introduced to two twenty-something, would-be lovers on a train in Vienna in Before Sunrise, and nine years since their chance encounter in Paris in Before Sunset. Now, another nine years on, comes Before Midnight.
As with all of the ‘Before’ movies, Before Midnight plays out over the course of one day. Jesse (Hawke), an American novelist and idealist, shares his life with Celine (Delpy); a headstrong, outspoken French activist who wonders whether her best days are behind her. The couple have been together for almost ten years and have chosen to spend their family holiday with their 7 year old twin daughters and Jesse’s thirteen year old son, Hank (Davey-Fitzpatrick), in the picturesque Greece.
When it comes time to say goodbye to Hank at the airport – who is returning home to the States – Jesse realises he’s missing out on his son’s life and begins debating whether to move his whole family across the pond, in order to be closer to his boy. However, this doesn’t sit well with Celine who is battling with her own decision of whether or not to accept a big job offer.
A series of long and seemingly complex conversations proceed and we watch the couple indulge in various extended debates and disputes – alone and with friends – covering everything from religion and politics, to sex and their own personal fears.
Before Midnight’s truth and honest portrayal of a couple learning to grow old together is perhaps the film’s strongest quality. Linklater has this amazing ability to connect with viewers; not just through a story and its message, but in forming the characters that carry it through. Hawke and Delpy are truly devoted to their roles and have wonderfully aged into their characters. Witty, clever, inquisitive and, most of all, believable, their on-screen chemistry makes watching them an absolute pleasure.
Linklater chooses yet another European backdrop which plays off wonderfully against the less optimistic views that the couple now shares; long scenes are filled with back-and-forth dialogues that are completely engrossing.
Wonderfully stimulating and disturbingly honest, Before Midnight delivers a natural extension of the Before series. The newest, and maybe closing, chapter is a wonderful and surprisingly sincere portrayal of life, love and what it takes to make it work.