“Unforgettable” is a movie with parts better than the sum of its parts. Its alchemy went wrong in the beaker somewhere and created a flat fizzle instead of a foamy, heady thriller. It’s not campy enough to enter into “Showgirls” territory, where it’s so bad it’s fabulous. “Unforgettable” is just … meh.
Katherine Heigl is the tightly-wound Tessa Conover, ex-wife of David, a beer-making, scruff-chinned former financial guy (Geoff Stults), and everything is amicable until David asks his new girlfriend Julia (Rosario Dawson) to marry him. Tessa becomes unglued and a very predictable series of events occurs. If you have seen at least two Lifetime movies, you have probably seen this storyline. It’s all there — kitchen knives, child in peril, secret psycho trauma stuff from killer’s childhood, the crazy abusive ex-boyfriend who turns up out of nowhere, a fireplace poker for Pete’s sake, even a white nightgown, perhaps in homage to the Ultimate Murderous Crazywoman Alex Forrest, brilliantly brought to icon status by Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction.”
But the droning storyline here is the fatal distraction to what actually could have been a pretty good movie. Because one thing that does work in this film is Dawson’s earthy performance as the frustrated (Nobody believes her!) and terrified (She keeps getting left alone!) woman at the center of it all.
Heigl, who is always so great playing vulnerable-tough women, struggles a little with the evil Tessa when her vulnerability drains out and she goes full-psycho. Tessa is supposed to be a pathological killer, and the final confrontation between her and Dawson’s heartfelt heroine plays awkward and clunky. Heigl has more than proven herself as an actress in her career but something is not working here.
Cheryl Ladd makes a cameo as Dawson’s mother, and either she has a painting of herself in her attic that looks like the Crypt Keeper or she has found the Fountain of Youth. She looks amazing. In her character we see where Tessa gets her brittle perfectionism.
First time director Denise Di Novi has quite the Hollywood pedigree in her credits as Tim Burton’s sometime producer. With “Edward Scissorhands” under your belt, you don’t really have to explain yourself to anyone.
But this movie ultimately fails in that all-important climactic end, the big ‘payoff’ confrontation scene, as evidenced by the twitter of giggles from the audience at the screening I attended. When your villainess goes on a rampage and inspires chuckles instead of the intended gasps, that’s not a good sign.
I’m not sure what they were going for with that title; it has nothing pertinent to do with the story. Perhaps it was dreamed up around some studio marketing conference table. The whole movie feels that way, with the heart and soul of a TV commercial.
After the screening was over, someone asked me what the name of the film was that I had just seen. As God as my witness, for a moment, I forgot.
2 stars (Out of four)
Starring Katherine Heigl, Rosario Dawson. Directed by Denise Di Novi. 100 minutes. Rated R for violence, sexual content, brief nudity and mature themes.