By the time the steamy suspense of ‘Unforgettable’ wraps up you’ll feel two things. First, you’ll feel far stupider than when you came in. Second, you’ll wonder if you watched a movie or if you bought a trashy paperback thriller at an airport and read it at such a high altitude that your brain didn’t quite work. In other words, the movie isn’t good. But it sure is steamy and cheesy. That’s something.
Remember ‘Fatal Attraction’? Good, now remember the parade of horrible knockoffs that were made in the decade following ‘Fatal Attraction’? I know it’s tough, but you can do it. Got it? Good. Now, if someone were to tell me that the script for ‘Unforgettable’ was written at that time and had been sitting under Michael Douglas’ coffee table for 30 years, I’d believe it. The story is so painfully overblown that it’s actually kind of amazing that the movie was produced at all. But it happened, and I guess that means I should describe the plot, no matter how irritatingly obvious it might sound.
Here goes… Rosario Dawson stars as Julia, a recently engaged woman with a troubled past. She once fled an abusive relationship that still haunts her, but is now engaged to a guy named David (Geoff Stults, who looks kind of like a potato with an open shirt and stubble), a dreamboat so damn good that Julia quit her day job and moved to a tiny town to be with him. Unfortunately, David has a crazy ex (Katherine Heigl). She’s jealous, she’s nuts, she’s a ticking time bomb, and she has a child with David to use for leverage.
Yeah, it’s one of those movies. Sometimes they can be fun, usually when irony and/or a brilliant visual stylist are involved. (Hello, Brian De Palma.) That didn’t happen here. It seemed like perhaps things might be pitched a bit arch when Katherine Heigl was cast as the wicked stepmother. Given Heigl’s reputation for being difficult on film sets and her comedy background, the whole movie could have been one big in-joke based on her casting. Not so much. Heigl shows no humor and plays it entirely sincerely, as if ‘Unforgettable’ were an intense drama. Well, it’s not. It’s cornball cheese and Heigl’s attempt to play that seriously is a movie-killing disaster. (At one point, Heigl is supposed to cry and it’s one of the least convincing special effects in film history.) Her performance has no layers; it’s clear that she’s dangerous from Scene 1. Then it takes well over an hour for that crazy to turn deadly. Even when that happens, the result is more dull and irritatingly obvious than anything else.
Directing duties fell to longtime producer Denise Di Novi (‘Edward Scissorhands’, ‘The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants’). This is her debut behind the camera of a feature. Boy does it show. ‘Unforgettable’ is somehow both amateurishly slapdash and embarrassingly overdone. Cinematography and atmosphere couldn’t be blander. The movie looks like a Sears commercial and often has the same level of excitement. At the same time, the flick is loaded with so much symbolism that it’s hard to breathe. (Oh look, the luggage fell off Rosario’s car on the way to her new home. Think that means bad things are afoot? Hmmmm…) Di Novi avoids countless opportunities for hyper-stylized paranoid suspense sequences to add visceral impact and focus. It’s odd to see a director who once worked so closely with Tim Burton deliver a product that looks so bland, but here we
Throughout it all, Rosario Dawson somehow retains her dignity and shows off some talent in the lead role. Unlike the Cinemax-level softcore scenes she’s forced to play, Dawson is the real deal and it shows. She makes this nonsense sound credible coming out of her mouth. No human should be able to do that, so ‘Unforgettable’ is a real testament to Dawson’s skills as an actress. Not that you should dare see the movie for that or any other reason. It’s a mess and a disaster, an attempt to revive an old form of thriller that looks even creakier in practice than it sounds in theory. No one should see this movie, not even Katherine Heigl’s parents. (Yes, even after all they’ve been through.)