Film Review: Unforgettable

An unintentionally hilarious thriller about a demented woman seeking revenge on her ex-hubby and his new love.
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Rarely have I had such laugh-out-loud fun as I did at the press screening of Unforgettable, and to judge by the joyous (escalating) guffaws coming from other reviewers, it was indeed a collective celebration of a wild comedy.

The problem is that this film, marking producer Denise Di Novi’s directorial debut, wasn’t intended as such (though the jury may still be out on that one) but rather as a dramatic thriller along the lines of Basic Instinct or Fatal Attraction, with an obsessed, deranged, and very dangerous woman at its core.

Unforgettable features pathologically jealous and ultimately murderous Tessa Connover (Katherine Heigl), who cannot reconcile herself to ex-hubby David (Geoff Stults) finding the love of his life with Julia (Rosario Dawson). Her rage is further fueled by the thought that Julia might replace her in her young daughter’s (Isabella Kai Rice) affections. Julia has her backstory and demons too, specifically in the person of her violent ex, Michael Vargas (Simon Kassianides) who has just been released from prison.

High-camp gothic doesn’t begin to describe this film that wallows in every predictable cliché (and then some), evoking the nocturnal ramblings of a drag queen on a mood-altering drug: doors creaking back and forth, faces in windows (sudden shock close-ups), scary music foreshadowing imminent doom and, most central, Heigl’s Grand Guignol of a control freak who’s endlessly brushing her daughter’s hair, polishing her silver and checking herself in the mirror to make sure no flaws have surfaced on her waxy, mask-like face. But then she’s been trained by the master, her own monster mom (Cheryl Ladd), resembling a magnificently embalmed high-end corpse who warns her thirty-something daughter, “Time doesn’t exist at your age.” Another touch: Tessa is a computer hacker and was an arsonist as a child. “Psycho-Barbie set fire to people’s houses,” one disenchanted character recalls.

Now for the good guys: There’s the unconventionally beautiful Julia, who is a lover of small children, stuffed animals and folkloric crockery. She’s private/public, vulnerable/tough, victim/survivor. And then there’s David, who’s inspired passion on all sides, which makes no sense since at all since he’s a well-intentioned personality-free everyman (with an odd haircut). But, as the film’s slogan explains: “When love ends, madness begins.”

Each protagonist/villain is hurled against a wall and/or otherwise battered; fireplace pokers and kitchen knives of various lengths are brandished and/or utilized with lethal intent; and virtually no one escapes physically unscathed.

So in what spirit was this nonsense conceived? If it’s deliberate parody, it doesn’t work. It’s so over-the-top obvious. The hilarity stems from the suspicion that screenwriter Christina Hodson and her colleagues were quite serious and perhaps even believed they were forging a muscular woman-driven narrative, which is arguably true but in the worst possible way. Let’s face it: If the creative team were made up of men instead of women, the film would be quickly dismissed—lambasted—as brutal misogyny, not that it warrants that much analysis either way.

On second thought, Unforgettable might represent new-wave feminist filmmaking, a shape-shifter that defines itself as the long-overdue antidote to political correctness.

(Just kidding.)

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