The jilted ex-lover subgenre of thrillers endures despite the fact there hasn’t been a truly original entry in some time because everyone out there has had a bad breakup in one form or another. Veteran producer Denise Di Novi makes her directorial debut with the ludicrous jilted ex-lover film Unforgettable, which would certainly be forgettable if it wasn’t so damn campy. There’s not an original thought in Unforgettable, but there is one crazy performance by Katherine Heigl and succession of absurd moments played with straight face. It certainly wasn’t the intention of the filmmakers, but the audience for Unforgettable was howling with laughter that would rival any film of 2017 with the exception of also ridiculously campy Fifty Shades Darker.
Perhaps the most bewildering aspect of Unforgettable, which is really saying something, is the fact that the film opens in the aftermath of what’s to come. Julia (Rosario Dawson) is being interrogated at the police station and the evidence against her is laid before everyone to see. It sets forth a bit of exposition about Julia’s complicated past but gives away all of the villain’s nefarious plan in detail.
Six months earlier, Julia is leaving behind her life in San Francisco to move in with her fiancé David (Geoff Stults) in Southern California. She’s an editor for a website and will be able work from home while David has left behind a life on Wall Street years ago to build his own small brewery. David has a daughter, Lily (Isabella Kai Rice), and shares custody with his ex-wife Tessa (Heigl). At first, the relationship between Julia and Tessa is cordial, though it doesn’t take long for the ex-wife and mother to start to stick her nose into Julia’s business. Tessa starts out playing mind games, exerting control over her ex-husband and turning Lily against her soon-to-be stepmother. Then Tessa steals Julia’s phone and initiates contact with Michael (Simon Kassianides), who Julia sent to prison following an abusive relationship that has left her with emotional scars. Naturally, these actions will lead to a violent conclusion.
There are two competing movies within Unforgettable. The first is a really dry generic thriller with Rosario Dawson working on a level well above the material. (Seriously, she’s an underrated actress.) The second is whatever movie Katherine Heigl and her character occupy. Heigl gives a performance that can best be described as a malfunctioning Stepford Wife. It’s as if Heigl got so locked-in to the dark side of her character she forgot that acting somewhat normal at times might make her character more menacing. And yet Unforgettable is all the better for it because this oddball performance gives the film at least something entertaining to watch. Whether it’s her character randomly vaping or her incredibly unsexy manner of masturbation, Heigl somehow finds a way to make each scene have its opposite effect.
As a producer, Denise Di Novi has been classics, hits, and flops. That makes the disastrous nature of Unforgettable all the more confusing. Di Novi frequently employs a soft focus on her actresses, a choice that is more distracting than effective. It’s equally distracting that Di Novi was seemingly incapable of getting her two leading actresses to agree upon which movie they were in. Nothing within the script by Christina Hodson even borders on original and all of its entertainment value is rooted in its camp value because everyone plays this absurdity with a straight face. There’s probably not a dumber character in the movies this year as David, a character whose thick nature makes the film’s events all the more improbable and thus hilarious.
Unforgettable is forgettable because it’s so familiar. However, buried within the film is a really solid performance by Rosario Dawson in pretty bad movie that’s only entertaining because Katherine Heigl’s performance is just absolutely bonkers. If you’re not looking for some campy fun, you might want to forget about Unforgettable.