The Vow: Serious About Love

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, Hollywood is bound to try to bring couples to the theater for the latest romantic drama.  This year’s love story, The Vow, offers a new and interesting twist to the traditional love story.

Leo (Channing Tatum) and Paige (Rachel McAdams) are newlyweds who are madly in love until a car accident brings tragedy to their lives.  When Paige awakens from a coma in the hospital, she thinks that Leo is her doctor and has no memory of meeting and marrying the love of her life.  Even worse, she still thinks she’s engaged to ex-fiance Jeremy (Scott Speedman) and has no recollection of how she left law school to become an artist.

Heartbroken, Leo must try to win back the woman he loves and faces daunting challenges in the form of rival Jeremy and Paige’s family, who did not approve of their daughter’s marriage to him.

Interestingly, The Vow is inspired by real-life events. In 1993, after just two months of marriage, Kim and Krickitt Carpenter were involved in a car accident that put Krickitt into a coma.  When she awoke, she had no memory of Kim.  Their story piqued the interest of producer Richard Birnbaum who realized that this was an amazing premise for a beautiful love story.  He optioned the rights to the Carpenters’ book (also titled The Vow), but the script was stalled in development for nearly a decade.  Screenwriters Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein were brought on board and finally delivered a script with the right balance of emotion and humor, without resorting to melodrama.

The Carpenter’s story is rooted in their strong Christian faith, but The Vow took a secular approach, emphasizing love and fate (but is certainly not without Christian themes—fate and faith are just a few letters apart).  As director Michael Scusi opines, “I think that love and fate can be very intertwined, and I think that love can endure.  If a particular love is true, it will find its way back.  We have free will to influence fate and change things, but fate, like water, pushes itself back onto a path.  That’s what happens in this story.”

Abby Kohn echoes the sentiment.  “Fate was a big thing we talked about.  One of the themes is that we all are who we are at the core.  If you took a five-year step back [in time], you’re still going to be that person.”

Finding the right actors to play Paige and Leo was a challenge.  As Scusi pointed out, Paige is very lovable but can be also be cold.  She pushes Leo away and snaps at him as a result of her frustrating memory loss.

“It was really important to find an actress that the audience couldn’t help but love. Rachel portrays both sides of the spectrum.  That’s why she is so perfect for this role.”

Rachel put a lot of time and effort into studying retrograde amnesia in order to understand what Paige would have gone through.  She muses, “Love can survive a lot.  Love is such an intense and wonderful thing, and it is so unpredictable.  It happens to you in the beginning but then you get to make a really epic choice.  You’re allowed to take it into your own hands and make something really miraculous out of it.”

When Channing Tatum’s name was brought up for the part of Leo, Scusi was initially reluctant to cast a guy with a tough, military image for the part.  “Then I met him in New York and said, ‘This guy has the biggest heart!  His heart is bigger than his chest cavity.  He’ll be an amazing Leo, but then he passed.’”   A few weeks later, he reconsidered and accepted the part after asking for changes to the way Leo was portrayed.

Tatum, a newlywed himself, believes that love should endure.  “I think it’s terrible that our divorce rate is [so high].  It’s sad.  I don’t think people take enough time to get to know each other on a lot of different levels.  I took five years to get to know my wife before we were married.  I don’t think people go at it in the right way anymore.  It’s such a culture about right now.  Everything is instant and everyone is so far away from each other.  We need to get back to the basics like ‘Can we co-habitate with each other?’ and moral things like how we want to raise children.”

As Jeremy, Scott Speedman had to walk a tightrope between playing a rival who was both likeable and despicable.  In a pivotal scene, Jeremy and Leo confront each other at a wedding, and Jeremy shows his true colors.  Speedman defends his character, saying, “I think people have weaker moments, and obviously Jeremy had a weaker moment there.  When you bring love into the equation, your brain is not working practically or logically.  I think you sort of get swept up into the moment.   I think all of us have done silly things when it comes to the heart.”

Although the Carpenters had no creative input to the film, they were invited to the set to meet the cast.  Tatum, who was nervous about meeting the inspiration for his character, was impressed.  “They are one of the most lovely couples I have ever come across.  Their story is very different from our movie.  [Krickitt’s] faith-based and religious fortitude helped them in their journey of getting back to who they were.  We took a very different, maybe more relatable way.”

Writer Marc Silverstein was thrilled that “the Carpenters saw the movie and loved it. I think we captured the emotions of what happened to them rather than the details.  It was not so much a literal fate as in ‘these two people are destined to be together,’ but sort of a personality/emotional fate as in ‘this is the person I want to be and I will find my way back to that person.’  The vow is more important than the legal document.”

The Vow opens in theaters on Friday, February 10th.  The film is rated PG-13 for an accident scene, sexual content, partial nudity and some language.

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