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The Vow: love in a time of no charisma. (Or sex appeal.)

May 14, 2012

Warning: There is a cute, perky wedding in this film.

Like being allowed to cry at my own party, because its my blog I’m allowed to be completely inconsistent. In an earlier post I wondered why Channing Tatum has a career. Let alone a successful career. Since writing that, he has, in fact, prospered, appearing as a star[!] in bigger and better-directed vehicles (Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike etc). So it was that I decided to actually pay ($4.99) to watch The Vow – but with a certain degree of trepidation.

This part of the trailer, and Efron’s rear end, sure wasn’t in the book…

While watching this film I became (erroneously) convinced, that The Vow is an adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel. Now it must be said I am no fan of Nicholas Sparks, oft-filmed romance novelist, or adaptations of his books. But because I’m in search of a good chickflick, I saw The Notebook relatively recently after ‘dicovering’ I have a fondness for Ryan Gosling (I discovered Not in The Notebook!) and I saw Nights in Rodanthe (what was I thinking? Richard Gere? I had wanted to see Diane Lane in Something. But this was clearly not it.) That was enough. And the good chickflick? Well, suffice it to say it hasn’t yet been made.

Then I saw the trailer for The Lucky One and read that book (in a moment of weakness on the basis of Zac Efron’s state of undress, I admit). But oh dear, what a pedestrian read it was. Biggest problem: it had No good descriptions of sex. In the biggest, most sex-potential scene, she knocks on the door, goes inside, they kiss, cut to the next morning… What? Is that it? Consider me unfulfilled.

This is as exciting as it gets folks…

What’s the point of a romance with no sex appeal? Are women these days so lame, so ruled by adolescent tastes, that they will read a romance with no, erm, Romance? I don’t think that’s it, after seeing the popularity of the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ S&M/”mommy-porn” series –  on the NYT bestseller list no less! (I hear the film is being made. On the plus side, I imagine it may be hard to make it without sexual content. It’s hard to imagine how Hollywood will deal with S&M.)

It is clear that women should write ‘romances’ and not men. Sparks, in typical man-mode, skips no-nonsense-like ahead to ‘plot’ and skims over the sexy bits. Even the Mormon-written ‘Twilight’ had more throbbing desire per page than this excruciating plod through small-town dating (subtitle: Love After Divorce). I do hope the film does better with this issue. I’m not asking for heaving mounds, trembling peaks, probing manhoods etc. Just some, Some … erotic interest, sexiness, chemistry etc. Surely women do not read romances for the boring bits about war buddies, dog training, floods, lost children and ex-husbands. Do they? Well, obviously they do! Inexplicably, Sparks’ (now there’s a misnamed author if there ever was one!) novels remain high up on the bestseller lists. Why? Are women so hard up for normal, ‘real-life’ lurv? They must be.

Anyway, I was feeling susceptible (already rendered brain-dead by an episode of Tough Love: New Orleans) so I watched The Vow, seeking Romance. I’m not a big fan of Rachel McAdams either I must confess. She’s perky, cute etc. But dull. Dull. Dull. Dull. I never was attracted to the Girl Next Door. Now whoever puts Rachel McAdams And Channing Tatum in a romantic drama is just lacking imagination on every level. Both are unable to do drama, for different reasons. McAdams is too darn sunny and Tatum is too inexpressive.

Or, if you like this sort of thing.

I suppose you can see the casting logic. Who is relatable, pretty and ordinary enough for Mrs Everywoman to root for as a heroine (plus has been in The Notebook). Oh! Lets cast Rachel McAdams. Who is relatable (um, kinda), handsome (in a lunky way) and has been in another romantic film? Hmm, Gosling is too much a critical darling now. He won’t do it. I know! Channing Tatum! He was in Dear John after all. But, unlike Zac Efron who, despite being dreadfully embarrassing offscreen, has a peculiar sexual mojo with leading ladies (its his One Gift – now that he doesn’t sing) – seemingly of every age and type. Channing Tatum has no discernable sex mojo onscreen, unless you’re turned on by ‘Nice’ or ‘Unthreatening’ or ‘Shirtless Hunk’. (I reserve judgement for his stripper routine in Magic Mike. At least he seems willing and able to laugh at himself.)

Judging from the postesr, trailers and casts alone, The Lucky One and The Vow do have an awful lot in common. And although The Vow is not Sparks, it may as well be. It is pretty to look at, but utterly devoid of any energy, edginess, complexity or soul. If a film cannot even convince you why two (real) people should be together, then it can’t have been very good, or very romantic. And oh so many stereotypical supporting characters. As soon as I saw squinty Sam Neill as The Father, blowsy Jessica Lange as the long-suffering mother, and nasty-looking Scott Speedman as the scheming ex, I knew exactly what to expect.

I see that The Lucky One (one star on rottentomatoes) has made a respectable yet not fantastic $56 million in its USA run while The Vow (based on a heart-rending true story we are told) made $125 million. I don’t think it’s the acting. Perhaps Channing Tatum appeals to older women? Maybe women find Zac Efron unbelievable as a hunky marine? Maybe viewers trust Rachel McAdams more as a name and a personality than The Lucky One’s Taylor Schilling (Schilling is definitely less terminally perky)? I’ll have to wait till I can get the film On Demand and do a comparative analysis to find the answer.

Art means never needing to remember anything.

Yes, its The Lucky One and the mother is…arty.

Anyway, The Vow was pretty harmless. Dire in parts and endlessly, insufferably cutesy (I don’t know why but memory-loss films just make me want to slap the characters. And why are these bloody women always artists! And why do they live in such quirky, cool apartments?) but … Channing Tatum was considerably better than he usually is. In fact, he was the most relatable, sympathetic person in the entire film (despite looking like an off-duty Chippendale and nothing like anyone’s husband)! I think I am going to upgrade him to a lunkier, less pretty, less exotic version of Keanu Reeves, i.e. of the ‘no-talent but possessing star quality nonetheless’ type of actor. Star quality transcends acting ability and sometimes even looks. Its an aura, an almost mystical ‘thing’ that some popular actors have. In Tatum’s case is when your star-ness and your everyday appeal makes you more memorable and more sympathetic. And this is where Channing Tatum can be found now, in this comfortable realm of star-next-door. It certainly explains why he is getting roles beyond GI Joe.

This guy is wet, wet, wet.

But if I were him I’d get it in my contract to never star in another romantic movie ever again. It’s one thing to work and improve and star in safe, soppy melodramas. But being in films this terminally uncool and treacly can only kill a man’s career.

(Watch me have to eat my words.)

  1. I know. Silly mistake. Duly ammended.

  2. ray permalink

    Um This is not Nicholas Sparks Movie.

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