Director: Denise Di Novi
Cast: Katherine Heigl, Rosario Dawson, Geoff Stults, Cheryl Ladd, Whitney Cummings
Runtime: 1 hr 40 mins
Rating: M18 (Sexual Scenes)
Released By: Warner Bros
Official Website: https://www.facebook.com/UnforgettableTheMovie/
Opening Day: 4 May 2017
Synopsis: Heigl stars as Tessa Connover, who is barely coping with the end of her marriage when her ex-husband, David (Stults), becomes happily engaged to Julia Banks (Dawson) — not only bringing Julia into the home they once shared but also into the life of their daughter, Lilly (Isabella Rice). Trying to settle into her new role as a wife and a stepmother, Julia believes she has finally met the man of her dreams, the man who can help her put her own troubled past behind her. But Tessa’s jealousy soon takes a pathological turn until she will stop at nothing to turn Julia’s dream into her ultimate nightmare.
‘Unforgettable’ begins with a bruised, traumatised Julia (Rosario Dawson) interrogated by the police for the murder of her ex, Michael Vargas (Simon Kassianides), an aggressive bully whom she had obtained a restraining order against some two years ago. She says that he showed up at her fiancee’s place to taunt her, but the police are sceptical. How to explain the photos that she has been sending him over Facebook, the intimate IM chats they’ve been exchanging and the pair of her panties found in his car? Like a classic noir, the plot unfolds six months earlier, with Julia packing up for Southern California to be with her new fiancé David (Geoff Stults) and his daughter Lily (Isabella Rice).
If you’ve seen any of the trailers for longtime producer Denise Di Novi’s directorial debut, you’ll know that the person responsible for the mess she will eventually find herself in is none other than David’s ex and Lily’s mother, Tessa (Katherine Heigl), who can barely contain her contempt for Julia and goes predictably bonkers when she happens to find out that David and Julia are engaged to be married. Just to be sure, the feud is as simple as it gets – consumed by jealousy, Tessa concocts a diabolical plan to foil Julia’s happily-ever-after with David, one which primarily revolves around creating a Facebook account for Julia (who just happens to shun any social media presence) and contacting Michael under the guise of wanting to re-connect with him.
That is about all there is to this ‘crazy-ex’ revenge thriller, which spends its time building up to the inevitable catfight between Julia and Tessa – but boy, does it really feel like an eternity. We watch Tessa play the Stepford-esque ex-wife to the hilt, a Type-A ‘psycho Barbie’ wound so tightly she threatens to pop a screw anytime. We see Lily end up as a pawn in their deadly game, as Tessa uses her to try to prove to David how ill-prepared, irresponsible and ultimately ill-fitting a step-mother Julia will be. We are even introduced to Tessa’s passive-aggressive mother (Cheryl Ladd), whom we are led to suspect is the reason why Tessa turned up this way. Along the way, we’ll learn just why David and Tessa got married in the first place (gasp: Lily was Tessa’s pawn even then!) and why he eventually decided to divorce her (well no spoilers here, but nothing too surprising as well).
Like we said, it is pretty much predictable all the way through – and although it may have seemed that Tessa was going to be more than the archetypal villain at the start, neither Hodson nor Di Novi eventually make good on reducing the caricatured-ness of her role. Then again, maybe that was the intention in the first place, seeing how much Heigl seems to relish playing against type here and admittedly exceling at it. Next to her, Dawson’s damsel-in-distress act comes off much blander, though that is more a fault of a script that lacks a compelling character arc for her – one moment she’s determined to wrest her life back from Tessa, the other she is wilting under the anonymous phone calls she thinks are from Michael. Whilst most of the time is spent pitting Julia and Tessa against each other, the movie itself fails to become more by neglecting to elaborate how Julia was like with David (such that the latter seems utterly nonplussed at Tessa being a constant presence in his new relationship) as well as how Tessa could have started unravelling at a much younger age under the demands of her mother.
As much as some commentators have deemed this a return to the ‘erotic thriller’ canon that classics like ‘Sleeping with the Enemy’ and ‘Fatal Attraction’ were known for in the 90s, ‘Unforgettable’ really doesn’t belong in that category. For one, there is only one substantial scene of simulated sex, which takes place within the toilet for the disabled at a nice restaurant; other than that, there is little display of skin here, nor for that matter much eroticism going on.
Still, this female-centric movie is better off not resorting to such clichés at the end of the day. Pity then that because of how straightforward the plotting is, much of it becomes a waiting game that never quite pays off by simply letting Julia and Tessa let up their pent-up enmity at each other at the end. At the risk of sounding cliched, it is hardly unforgettable, and not even a terrific atypical performance by Heigl makes it any more memorable.
(Katherine Heigl plays the jealous ex with twisted delight, but a wholly predictable plot and underdeveloped character relationships ultimately doom this domestic thriller to mediocrity)
Review by Gabriel Chong