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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Oct. 31, 2014

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Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum in new romantic drama "The Vow," in theaters today.
Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum in new romantic drama "The Vow," in theaters today.

"The Vow" promises a uniquely real take on the romance genre

Spoiler alert: There are some.

There are few things I feel more ambivalent toward than chick flicks. On the one hand, they're tedious, predictable drivel that almost insult the viewer with their stereotypical characters, cookie-cutter plots and unrealistic portrayals that turn habitual watchers into idealistic love zombies. On the other hand, sometimes I just need a dose of sappy trash.

All of this is what I was expecting "The Vow" to pitch me. Instead, this romantic drama (the rom-drom, if you will) packs more authenticity than all the romance flicks I saw last year combined.

Going only on the movie's premise, "The Vow" does not sound so progressive. Husband Leo (Channing Tatum) and wife Paige (Rachel McAdams) get in a car accident that leaves Paige in a coma. When she comes out of it, all memory of her marriage to Leo is gone, and he must overcome odds and obstacles to win back her love.

But, "The Vow" is more than this simple, cut-and-dry synopsis. There are no whimsical montages. There are no grand, elaborate gestures. There is no steadfastly devoted, superhuman husband. And there's no magical moment where everything clicks, Paige's memory returns and the couple embraces in slow motion to the swell of a movie score. Instead, the audience sees the awkward attempts at normalcy. Frustration. Guilt. Desperation. Fights and reconciliation, progress and stumbles. It's a rare, but refreshing, move to take.

The only real disappointment for me was the film's fall-back on the "rival ex" plot device. Ex-fiance Jeremy (Scott Speedman) shows up later in the film after Paige seeks solace with her parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange). His involvement is lame clutter that adds little to the story.

I had hoped they would have elaborated on Paige's past with her family instead and given the grossly underutilized Neill and Lange something to do, but the audience must make due with a story arc that falls short and fledgling multi-dimensional characters that get swept under the rug.

It's a small failing in a film that, overall, is worth much more than its generic previews and Valentine's Day open. On the other hand, "The Vow" may be just what the V-Day filmgoer set needs to de-zombify.

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