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The Vow: movie review (+trailer)

With its long climb out of amnesia, 'The Vow' plays with viewers' patience.

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Amnesia has been at the center of scores of films, mostly melodramas and thrillers. But melodrama and farce are mirror images: The same plot can drive either one, depending wholly on tone. "Memento," let me introduce you to "Clean Slate"; "Spellbound," meet "Desperately Seeking Susan." The melodrama "No Man of Her Own," the thriller "I Married a Dead Man," and the farce "Mrs. Winterbourne" are all based (rather faithfully) on a single Cornell Woolrich novel.

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In the thrillers, the question is most frequently "Did I lose my memory after witnessing a murder? Or after committing one?" "The Vow" has nothing so extreme, well, except for the opening Truckmageddon incident. It is purely a romance – what used to be condescendingly called "a woman's picture." That Tatum shows a lot more skin than McAdams tells you everything you need to know about the film's projected demographic.

The movie's most shocking revelation is nothing close to murder; it's that, before Leo met her, Paige used to be a complete pill. She may be edging away from Leo, but you'd think Leo would be "running" away from her instead of moping around. It's time for him to turn the Paige and move on.

The gold standard for amnesiac romances remains the 1942 "Random Harvest," in which the story mechanics are beyond preposterous: Ronald Colman's memory swings back and forth like a pendulum. "The Vow" takes place in a more realistic universe. (In fact, it claims to be based on a true story.) While the plot's logic is consistent with the sort of gentle resolution we get, the emotional logic demands something stronger. We crave the moment when Paige's memories come flooding back. To deny us that is certainly more realistic, but by the end the patient audience deserves something more than mere realism. Grade: C (Rated PG-13 for an accident scene, sexual content, partial nudity, and some language.)

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