★ / ★★★★
The would-be thriller “Unforgettable,” written by Christina Hodson and directed by Denise Di Novi, proves to be a disappointing watch because it could have been a trashy, campy flick with lead performers who are game to do whatever it takes to deliver a good time. Instead, what we are provided is yet another painfully generic Lifetime-like picture that lacks energy, intelligence, and well-earned thrills. In the middle of its barrage of boredom, I wondered: Who is the movie for? Why was it made?
Rosario Dawson and Katherine Heigl deserve better material to work with. They play Julia and Tessa, the former the fiancée of the latter’s ex-husband (Geoff Stults). Both surprised me in different ways. With Dawson, she is such a charismatic person, but this film has a knack for sucking the appeal out of her. Perhaps it is the manner in which the character is written; it fails to show us Julia’s strength for so long that we end up wishing to yell at her to do something smart or resourceful. The dialogue brings up that Julia is this strong person. However, entertainment comes from showing rather than telling.
Heigl is a delight as a psycho Barbie ice queen. I enjoyed the way she is able to tap into different emotions of being a cold-hearted person with using only her eyes at times. Having seen her in so many pedestrian, forgettable romantic comedies, I was delighted that in here she has found a way to communicate how the character feels without using words, whether it be a flick of the hair, how she stands so rigidly, how the corner of her mouth tightens up just a little when Tessa is given news that makes her feel less than. Another performer might have relied on the icy blond look and beautiful but emotionless face. Clearly, Heigl is the stronger (and more interesting) of the two co-leads.
There is barely a detectable dramatic parabola in the plot. While events happen, they do not build on a consistent manner. It almost always goes like this: Tessa recognizes an opportunity to make Julia’s life worse, she acts upon it in front of a computer in the dark, Julia responds to the situation but doesn’t recognize that the all too unfortunate event is no accident. Rinse and repeat. And so when the inevitably violent final act rolls around, there is an air of indifference since we know exactly how it is going to turn out. And just when you think it doesn’t get any worse, the final scene is all wrong. It hints at a possible sequel when there is barely anything to show in this film in the first place.
“Unforgettable” could have taken a page from Onur Tukel’s surprisingly effective “Catfight.” In that film, we understand the two women—their psychology, what motivates them, their end goals—and why they must eventually clash. Here, Julia and Tessa must fight only because the plot demands that they do. And in Tukel’s dark comedy, the violence is on an entirely different level that it has to be seen to be believed.