24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Rachel McAdams

'The Vow' writers: A tale Tatum and McAdams could appreciate

February 20, 2012 |  7:30 am

The Vow, starring Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams, has become a hit at the box office. Its writers have endured their own romantic struggles
What if you were engaged to your professional partner and called off the wedding -- but decided to keep working together anyway?  It could be a plot line from a movie like "The Vow" or "He's Just Not That Into You." But it's something a tad more surreal: the real-life story of the writing duo behind those films.

Directed by Michael Sucsy and released last week, "The Vow" is set to close out a strong holiday weekend with a likely four-day haul that will top $27 million, making it the most lucrative release of the young year. The relationships in the Rachel McAdams-Channing Tatum romantic drama, in which he must court his amnesiac wife anew after she wakes from a coma and reverts to an earlier version of herself, are complicated enough.

But the tale of writers Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein rivals anything their characters grapple with.

Kohn and Silverstein dated for seven years, then broke up in the early 2000s. They proceeded to marry other people -- she, in 2005, music executive Jason Linn; he, two years later, actress Busy Phillips. They each now have daughters with their new spouses. But they continue to collaborate on scripts about relationships and romance -- in fact, they've found far more success since their breakup -- as they practice what is surely one of the oddest professional relationships in a town filled with them.

Abby: "It's a little weird," speaking by phone this weekend in a joint interview with her writing partner, the two routinely finishing each other's thoughts.
Marc: "Maybe more than a little weird."
Abby: "I think when I first started dating [my husband], he had questions, but he got it pretty quickly."
Marc: "My wife had a tougher time at the beginning."
Abby: "It's not simple."
Marc: "It's not a simple thing to explain on a first date."
Abby: "On a third date."

After meeting in film school at USC and hooking up as lovers and filmmaking partners, Kohn and Silverstein graduated and began writing feature scripts about young love. Though only in their 20s, they soon sold a pitch, a back-to-school comedy titled "Never Been Kissed." Within a year, the movie was shooting with Drew Barrymore. It was considered a respectable hit when it came out in 1999.

PHOTOS: "The Vow" premiere

The years that followed were rougher. The pair toiled in television, watching as pilot deals came and went. For a time their relationship intensified -- they became engaged and were just a few months from the wedding -- then it sputtered. The two decided to break up. (Abby: "When we were younger it was work all the time." Marc: "It was probably a little unhealthy, though we got a lot more done." Abby: "We got a lot more done, and we also didn't do anything else.")

Most couples would have thrown in the towel on their creative partnership at that point. But the breakup wasn't messy, and besides, the two had more pressing concerns.

Marc: "When we decided not to get married, we were contractually obligated on a pilot."


Abby: "We were in pre-production; we couldn't take time off."
Marc: "So we figured we should try to work together."
Abby: "We had to do it."
Marc: "It was not great."
Abby: "But it didn't take that long for it to get normal again."

They continued with that pilot, then others. At one point they even created a show,  "Splitsville," that was based on their own story. It didn't turn into a series, but the pair continued trying to get a movie or television show going.

Then a few years ago, a break came. After numerous writers tried to crack the story on a thin self-help book called "He's Just Not That Into You," Kohn and Silverstein had the idea to turn it into an ensemble romance with overlapping characters. They  were given the assignment, then watched as the movie went on to become a hit in February 2009.

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'The Vow': What is it about Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams?

February 13, 2012 |  9:28 am

In the weeks leading up to the release of "The Vow," it was easy to knock the movie: the amnesiac plot line (Rachel McAdams' character wakes up from a coma and must be wooed anew by hubby Channing Tatum), the lovelorn glances, the schmaltzy sentiments.

Come to think of it, it was easy to knock the movie after it came out too; self-knowing irony isn't exactly the name of this game, which lends itself to all sorts of comic opportunities from the cheap seats. That Tatum and McAdams' acting, which in recent years has been characterized by his stoned-faced qualities and her chipper ones, hasn't lately made the Oscar voters come running added to the fun.

Yet after the weekend's heart-stopping box office — $41.7 million, well above expectations and in fact the sixth-highest February opening in history — it's clear that, for all the ways one might compare this movie to a cross between "50 First Dates" and "While You Were Sleeping," we still rushed out to see it.

PHOTOS: 'The Vow' premiere

The truth is it shouldn't be entirely surprising. McAdams and Tatum are shaky leading draws  in movies that aren't romances — see under "Morning Glory" and "The Eagle." But they do OK when star-crossed love enters the picture (see under: McAdams' "The Time Traveler's Wife" and "The Notebook" and Tatum's "Dear John.")

They're apparently even more persuasive when they're star-crossed together: "The Vow" is on pace to take in more money than any of those films, and in fact more money than any movie than either of them has done as leading actors on their own, save for Tatum's "G.I. Joe," a different beast entirely.

How does that work exactly? Why do actors we're only lukewarm on apart work when together? Certainly the traits that can seem like too much on their own — say, McAdams' perkiness and Tatum's earnestness —can be complementary when mixed, two extremes somehow neutralized, the filmic equivalent of sweet-and-sour sauce.

It's why Meg Ryan's constant poutiness and Billy Crytal's relentless wise-guy-ness worked well in "When Harry Met Sally" (also, incidentally, a better performer than many movies they did on their own), or how Audrey Hepburn's effusiveness and George Peppard's stoicism made for a classic in "Breakfast at Tiffany's."

Not to compare this movie to those classics. But in that sense, at least, "The Vow" has located the formula of many cinematic romances — they work best not necessarily because the actors seem like a real-life couple, but because the traits of one half mitigate the other.


Review: 'The Vow' leaves you wanting more

'The Vow' leads strong weekend with $41.7 million

'The Vow' fails to live up to its promise, critics say

— Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum in "The Vow." Credit: Screen Gems

The week in film: 'The 'Vow and 'Star Wars' in 3-D [video]

February 10, 2012 |  6:55 pm


The next five days bring a surprisingly heavy volume of winter movies. By the time Valentine's Day rolls around, two films, the Rachel McAdams-Channing Tatum romantic drama  "The Vow" and McG's amorous actioner "This Means War," will have taken aim at the date-night crowd.

Meanwhile, George Lucas brings back "Star Wars - Episode One: Phantom Menace" in 3-D this weekend, the first of six planned re-releases for the movies in that space-opera franchise. The Times' Nicole Sperling and Steven Zeitchik examine the spurt of February films, and their prospects, in this edition of 24 Frames' week-in-review video.





Movie review: 'The Vow leaves' you wanting more

The Vow fails to live up to its promise critics say

Star Wars 3-D and every other 3-D movie on the planet coming in the next year

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams get amorous in "The Vow." Credit: Screen Gems

'The Vow' fails to live up to its promise, critics say

February 10, 2012 |  3:29 pm

The Vow

On paper, the new film "The Vow" might seem like a rom-com juggernaut. The film boasts swoony leads Rachel McAdams ("The Notebook") and Channing Tatum ("Dear John"), writing alums from "My So-Called Life" and "Valentine's Day," and a story inspired by true events: a newlywed couple trying to reconnect after the wife suffers accident-related amnesia. But while "The Vow" appears poised to win the box office this week, critical reaction to the film has been lukewarm.

In a mixed review, The Times' Betsy Sharkey calls "The Vow" "a movie that leaves you wanting more. To care more, to cry more, to love more." While Sharkey commends Rogier Stoffers' cinematography, Kalina Ivanov's production design and Jessica Lange's supporting performance, she also writes that "The problems start with a very lopsided script." Four people share the screenplay credit, Sharkey notes, and "you feel their separate sensibilities fighting for control." As for the lead actors, Tatum fares well enough, but McAdams is given less to work with ("a lot of smiles and blank stares") and thus feels wasted.

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Preview review: McAdams, Keaton, Ford shine in 'Morning Glory'

May 26, 2010 | 12:33 pm

Morninggloryfirstphoto Many who've seen the trailer for the new Rachel McAdams movie "Morning Glory" are already drawing comparisons between this film and "Broadcast News," the classic '80s workplace drama about reporters who fight and fall in love at a local news station.

But to be honest, "Morning Glory" kind of reminds of last year's Katherine Heigl film "The Ugly Truth" -- only, well, good. In that film, Heigl played a morning news producer who struggled against a network who wanted to dumb down its programming with a sex-fueled show hosted by Gerard Butler's character. 

In this movie, out in November, desperate job seeker Becky Fuller (McAdams) takes a gig as a TV producer at "Daybreak," a national morning news show with sagging ratings. She brings old hand Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford) on board, a famous TV anchor who stubbornly refuses to cover any fluffy news items and looks down upon his co-host, Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton).

One example of their on-air banter?

"I suppose I don't have standards?" Colleen asks Mike at one point in the trailer.

“Sure you do. When you got your pap smear on air, you wore a silk robe. Classy touch," Ford's character quips.

Meanwhile, of course, in addition to the sparring co-hosts, Becky has to juggle a budding romance with a fellow producer (Patrick Wilson).

Obviously, the cast here is pretty outstanding (Jeff Goldblum, who is great in this summer's upcoming "The Switch," also plays a smaller role in the film). Keaton and Ford look physically perfect as the two anchors -- she has the Meredith Vieira look down pat, while Ford's Brooks Brothers attire and combed-back hair scream a slightly older Brian Williams. It's nice to see Ford playing a lighter role after his turn as a solemn scientist in the horrendous flop "Extraordinary Measures" earlier this year. Toss in McAdams, who we've always been fans of, plus the fact that the movie was produced by J.J. Abrams and written by "Devil Wears Prada" scribe Aline Brosh McKenna?

We're there. Are you? Vote in our poll.

-- Amy Kaufman (Twitter.com/AmyKinLA)

Photo: Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton star in "Morning Glory." Credit: Paramount Pictures

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