February is the month for love and romantic movies. In The Vow, Rachel McAdams plays a freespirited artist who loses all memory of her husband (Channing Tatum) after a car crash. He has to win her heart all over again. Would you do anything for love?
It all started with a kiss. Thomas Edison’s The Kiss shocked audiences in 1896 when Whitby, Ontario’s May Irwin locked lips in the very first kiss in cinematic history. Romance movies have been popular ever since, usually with the formula of attraction/obstacle/love. We know where the road is headed, so it better be a fun ride. Love can’t conquer a weak story in The Vow. The magic is missing, so you won’t need a box of tissues.
The Vow is set in Chicago, but only spent a few days wrapping up filming in the Windy City to capture some iconic images. Toronto often plays stand-in for our kind of town Chicago. The mayor of our sister city was not amused when the Oscar-winning musical Chicago (2002) was filmed here at locations such as the Distillery District and Danforth Music Hall.
In The Vow, the sap has a maple flavour. Watch for a meet-cute scene at Toronto City Hall and a ‘life is a box of chocolates’ moment at The Roastery Coffee House in Liberty Village (as Café Mnemonic, ha ha). The couple go for a cold dip at a Toronto beach pretending to be Lake Michigan. There’s a wedding-on-the-run in the Art Gallery of Ontario that ends up at ‘the Bean’ in Chicago. I’ll bet the A.G.O. wishes it really owned the Georges Seurat masterpiece A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884) which hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago and was a highlight of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986).
Toronto is blessed with one treasure. Rachel McAdams has been happy to call Toronto home since 1997 when she arrived from St. Thomas to study theatre arts at York University. No diva, McAdams has never ‘gone Hollywood’ and tries to avoid the celebrity circus of L.A. She lives with her brother in the Annex house she bought after the success of Mean Girls (2004) (which filmed on Balsam Rd. and at Malvern C.I.).
McAdams is an environmentalist who enjoys gardening, cycling and the TIFF Lightbox. “I feel very much at home in Toronto,” she recently explained. “I ride my bike everywhere.”
She feels “being in Toronto keeps me centred…I try to keep my feet on the ground.”
When Tatum made fun of her bicycle helmet, McAdams got the last laugh. A competitive figure skater until she was 18, McAdams took the Southerner ice skating for his very first time, “break dancing on ice,” as he described it.
McAdams was always being left behind as The Time Traveler’s Wife in 2009, with Toronto locations (Lightman’s on the Danforth) again masquerading as Chicago. Other made-in-Toronto romances include Moonstruck (1987), Stanley and Iris (1989) (featuring Kew Gardens), That Old Feeling (1997), Love Letters (1999) (St. John’s Norway Cemetery), Three to Tango (1999), Serendipity (2001), My Big, Fat Greek Wedding (2002) (on the Danforth), How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)(Allen’s on the Danforth) and Fever Pitch (2005) (Withrow Park). The Garden Gate Restaurant wasn’t the only ‘Goof’ in Angel Eyes (2001). Who knew there was a CN Tower in Chicago?
Do romantic films put too much pressure on guys? Should men make grand gestures of love like Ryan Gosling’s character in The Notebook (2004) which costarred McAdams (who was born in the same London, Ontario hospital as Gosling)? Guys, forget The Vow and talk about your feelings over While You Were Sleeping or When Harry Met Sally or Casablanca…
“You must remember this, a kiss is still a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh…”