As my car comes to a stop at the light, I can't help but notice how glorious the sun looks as it generously casts its rays on my shoulders. Suddenly, the world comes to life around me--the air that previously smelled of Four Loko and compromised morals is saturated with the perfumed roses the guy is selling on the median. On the radio, last year's hit Bruno Mars song breaks through the cynical barrier that used to shield my ears, sending me its sweet notes like a love letter delivered by an angel. Even with an enormous effort, I cannot wipe the smile off my face. It hits me. I am in love with The Vow.
It's not just that Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams seem genetically engineered by Hollywood to be "relatable" and "easy on the eyes," or that the story immediately taps into the marrow of any romantic bone in your body and refuses to stop pumping it with rose-scented love juice. That's definitely part of it. But from the get go, as Leo (Tatum) goofily sings Meatloaf to his beloved bohemian bride Paige (McAdams), stumbles through compliments on her sculptures, or allows his doofus of a top hat-wearing friend to officiate their clandestine wedding in a museum, the movie struck this rare balance of allowing me to make fun of its earnestness while sneakily charming my pants off. (No, not literally...) About 15 minutes in, I found myself trapped in its quicksand like that zebra in Swiss Family Robinson.
At first, all we know is that Paige and Leo are in the kind of L-O-V-E that is whispered about in the darkest corners of a Sarah Lawrence dorm room. When their car gets rear-ended while they're making out during a snowstorm, Paige acquires a nasty case of amnesia that leaves only her pre-Leo memories intact. Since she can't remember being a free-love sculptress, she reverts to what she can remember, which involves lots of J.Crew dresses, unflattering bangs, a white-collar ex-fiancée, and an estranged, uptight family. Although I found myself wishing really hard that just one glance at Leo's naked torso would unleash a torrent of memories like a Doctor Who rebirth, no dice. "Stupid brain with all your intricacies," I kept muttering.
Based on a true story, the movie works like a cashmere-clad Memento where Paige journeys to recall who she is and what she did during that missing time, while everyone in her life squabbles over whose version of her is the correct one. There are no exaggerated, stock characters to sully the film's credibility, just a reasonable representation of how hard relearning your life must be. With every lovelorn glance and comfy sweater, I finally saw Channing Tatum as Steven Soderbergh does (as Tatum is starring in two of his most recent movies). Together with McAdams' megawatt smile, they whipped my heart into a frenzy that has caused me to blow kisses at the dogwalkers passing by and nuzzle the mailman. Happy Valentines Day, indeed.