Believe it or not, I have struggled with how to grade Unforgettable, the latest domestic thriller that feels destined to live in the shadow of many that have come before it. On the one hand, this is highly predictable stuff and it doesn’t break any new ground whatsoever but the talented cast, led by Katherine Heigl and Rosario Dawson, elevate the material to a level that ALMOST makes this worthy of a recommendation. They have an understanding of their characters and they offer up performances that are a bit more complex than the material actually deserves. You want more for both of these women as Unforgettable puts them in completely silly situations that just emphasize the clichés of a growingly tired sub-genre.
The premise is pretty simple and bound to sound very familiar. Tessa (Katherine Heigl), has not been coping well with her divorce from David (Geoff Stults). When he develops a serious relationship with Julia (Rosario Dawson), Tessa sets a diabolical plot in motion and turns the life of his new romantic interest into a living hell.
It’s interesting that Unforgettable was directed and written by women. Denise Di Novi serves as director while Christina Hodson serves as the writer on this project. Not only do you have a strong female presence in front of the camera, but you also get it behind the lens yet somehow they don’t reimagine this tired formula. The dismaying thing about this is, although this is a female-centered movie, the women’s roles are not exactly empowering. The clichés demand that one character is off her rocker and that the other one not be smart enough to realize how crazy her adversary is until it’s too late. It’s a woman in jeopardy meets a woman on the verge thriller that seems stuck in the 90’s when these thrillers were a plentiful treat at the box office.
If Tessa’s brand of crazy wasn’t enough, Julia is also saddled with an abusive ex played by Simon Kassianides who has just recently been released from prison. You predict early on that Tessa will use the ex in a very desperate attempt to get rid of Julia and in a truly predictable thriller style, she does. It’s not that I’m against this plot point. It surely shows how far Tessa will go to destroy her competition but it’s seen from a mile away and that’s what keeps the film from surprising us. You see everything coming and you just get frustrated that the characters in the film can’t see it as well.
The true positives here are Katherine Heigl and Rosario Dawson. Heigl has been typecast as the uptight blonde (look no further than Knocked Up, 27 Dresses and The Ugly Truth) but at least in this world, she gets to put a villainous spin on the persona that honestly seems to poke fun a bit at her real life reputation for being pretty difficult. She’s able to convey the utter camp of the role (complete with vaping, chatting on Facebook messenger and searching for strangers’ records on “backgroundprobe.com” in the dark with her only company being an enormous glass of wine) but she also gives us moments where we actually feel bad for Tessa. Her mother, played with ice-like precision by Cheryl Ladd, provides us a window into why Tessa herself seems to be carved out of ice. They share a scene together where you immediately get Tessa’s hang ups and while it isn’t enough to fully justify her brand of crazy, it at least prevents her from being a by the book villainess.
Rosario Dawson is also top notch and we immediately rally behind Julia, even if she seems to be two steps behind us as Tessa spins her devilish scheme. You root for her to come out on top and that’s essential here because Heigl’s performance is so fun that it could overshadow Dawson but they both seem to get their roles and they definitely bring more to the table than what was presented to them on the page. Dawson also makes you believe in her affection for David played by Geoff Stults, which is its own brand of kudos because Stults plays the role as he was carved out of a generic boyfriend plot point. Actually, credit should be given to both women because you have to buy that Julia would stay despite the crazy ex and that he’s special for any woman to go crazy over.
Unforgettable could’ve been a so bad it’s good erotic thriller but it plays things too safe and you call how it’s all going to play out before we reach the climax. I give credit to its two leading ladies for playing it straight and almost making some of it work but this is a film that won’t be matching its title as it heads to late night Cinemax obscurity.
Reel Talk gives Unforgettable 1.5 Reels