Unforgettable is a generic but effective thriller of the scorned-woman-goes-postal variety. (Think Fatal Attraction, for starters.) It's the directorial debut of veteran producer Denise Di Novi, who has worked on a number Tim Burton pictures and a couple of cuddly Nicholas Sparks adaptations as well. Her interests would seem to range widely. Still, the sort of story we have here, with its gaudy view of female hysteria, is an unexpected place for such an accomplished woman to launch a directing career—especially since she doesn't seem interested in adding any new twists to this genre, which in the past has been the cause of considerable feminist aggravation.
Julia Banks (Rosario Dawson) is an online-magazine editor who leaves her home in San Francisco to move in with her fiancé, David Connover (Geoff Stults, of TV's The Odd Couple), who lives in a super-swell house down in the SoCal suburbs. (Sensitive-hunk David is of minimal interest in this fem-centric story; he's saved from being a complete cliché by having left his Wall Street job to open a craft-beer brewery rather than yet another frickin' vineyard.) David shares custody of his 10-year-old daughter Lily (Isabella Kai Rice) with his ex-wife Tessa (Katherine Heigl), who, as Julia very soon learns, is a complete nutcase.
I know any mention of Heigl will set off sirens of alarm in many moviegoers, but she's given little latitude for annoyance here, being largely confined to a single facial expression of steely whack-job malice. With her overbearingly blonde hair and stiff demeanor, she suggests a walking icicle, and we're never in any doubt about what she'd be willing to do to get her ex-husband back. (Anything, right?)
It must be said that director Di Novi does allow us some insight into Tessa's sinister motivations, especially in a few scenes with her mother (a matronly horror played by Cheryl Ladd). But her demonstrations of the character's kinks are surprisingly cheesy. At one point, we come upon Tessa researching Julia on her laptop, making a juicy discovery, then leaning back in her chair to begin masturbating. In another scene, we find her seething with frustration and seeking release by mounting a horse to go for a good pounding ride.
The movie is mainly concerned with Tessa's cruel gaslighting of the sweet-natured Julia—who has one dark secret in her past, which Tessa deviously exploits. There's minor weirdness at first: Julia's engagement ring goes missing, along with a pair of her panties; then a large vase of flowers mysteriously appears on her front steps (just when Tessa is arriving for an unannounced visit, naturally). This is followed by the arrival of the last person in the world Julia wants to see. Whenever she tries to explain that she's being set up for something, though, no one believes her.
We know how this movie must conclude, in a general sense, and there's not a lot of surprise when it takes a left turn into slasherville (strongly recalling Fatal Attraction). It's a pretty well-done sequence, actually. And there's a cute little plot flourish at the end that might be the only thing you remember with an appreciative grin after this otherwise predictable movie is over.
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Photo Credit: Warner Bros