It takes a lot of chutzpah to call your movie “Unforgettable.” It’s a bold, dauntless title. It practically demands your unflinching, unmoving attention. It’s the title of a film with something to say or something on its mind. Or, at least, it should be. It’s not only ironic but fitting that I keep forgetting the title of this idiotic, ill-conceived movie. Is it “Unshakable“? “Unforgivable“? “Unmistakable“? It certainly can’t be “Unbreakable.” Longtime producer Denise Di Novi‘s feature directorial debut is a boilerplate, undistinguished throwback to the stalker thrillers of the ’80s/’90s, a textureless, only moderately kinky cross between “Fatal Attraction” and “Single White Female” that’s not nearly erotic or suspenseful enough to earn their heightened shocks and thrills (as cheesy and melodramatic as those films could be). It’s straightforward when it should be subversive and only owns up to its silliness when it’s too late. If there’s a movie that deserves this title, “Unforgettable” certainly isn’t it. “Unremarkable” is more fitting.
Julia Banks (Rosario Dawson) is ready to start a new life. Recently escaping an abusive relationship, she finds the perfect man in David Connover (Geoff Stults), a successful entrepreneur with an adorable daughter, Lily (Isabelle Rice). But he’s not without baggage, and that comes in the form of an intense, envious ex-wife Tessa (Katherine Heigl), whom he’d like to leave for good. Following their messy break-up, David hopes to settle back into a comfortable relationship, and Julia couldn’t ask for anything better. With the threat of her last boyfriend always on her mind, Julia agrees to move out of San Francisco and into the quiet small town where her new fiancee and child reside, though Julia doesn’t necessarily receive a warm, welcomed greeting. A controlling, vindictive, calculating personality, Tessa will do whatever it takes to return to the company of her former husband and daughter. Whether that involves bribing, looting, breaking and entering, unwelcome visits or some violence, Tessa will stop at nothing to get what she wants. But Julia isn’t going to surrender without a fight, and that’s when things really, truly start to get nasty.
In the right moments, “Unforgettable” knows how to get naughty. Dawson and Heigl clearly aim to have fun with this splashy, trashy soap opera-level cinematic catfight, and Heigl gets some wild, juicy moments. Whether it’s “Home Sweet Hell” or “Killers,” Heigl has a history of playing unhinged characters in bad movies, but Tessa is among her better (if limited) big screen performances of late. She plays it cold and ruthless, and yet there’s a cruel gleam in her eye that proves she’s simply waiting to pounce at any given moment. It’d be enjoyable if the movie itself were more free-wielding or maybe self-aware, but Novi’s approach is unruffled to a fault. It spends so much time ineffectively building up to the insanity that when the true cray-cray shit goes down, it’s largely predictable, underwhelming and unstimulating. Sure, there are chuckles to be gleaned amid the kooky nonsense, but only a few feel intentional, and most of them are inconsistent. “Unforgettable” isn’t fun, wacky or winking enough to relish as simple playful silliness.
Even with an agreeable 100 minute running time, “Unforgettable” drags when it should bleed. There’s very little spontaneity or engaging goofiness, and the characters are too familiar and thinly drawn to grow invested in. Everything feels too measured and calculated to a fault, a telling sign that this is a producer at the helm. This is a movie that needs to be surprising and arousing to really stimulate, but anything that’s meant to be steamy reads as uncomfortable and anything that should be shocking doesn’t get a jolt out of you. “Unforgettable” has all the excitement and misconduct of a scheduled visit to the DMV, and it’s inability to own up to its R-rating or settle less comfortably into a PG-13 makes De Novi’s first movie more awkward and disjointed than it should be. Unlike its blonde villain, “Unforgettable” ultimately doesn’t know what exactly it wants, and that makes it the one thing a movie like “Unforgettable” should never, ever be: dull.
With its stark red posters and its convicted performances, “Unforgettable” should own up to its sleaziness. By all accounts, it demands to be a pure, unadulterated cheesefest, a lewd, unhinged melodrama that delights in its unsophisticated mischievousness. Instead, it’s not only bland but disposable in all the wrong ways. De Novi isn’t aiming high here, but if you’re going to make something as raunchy, cruel and salacious as the name “Unforgettable” suggests, you shouldn’t be so indistinct and wishy-washy. It’s hard to remember a studio movie as unsexy in its mischief this side of “Fifty Shades of Grey.” [C-]