Directed by: Denise Di Novi
Premise: A domestic abuse survivor (Rosario Dawson) moves in with her fiancé (David Connover) who shares custody of his daughter with his ex-wife (Katherine Heigl). News of their impending wedding sends the ex-wife into a violent tailspin.
What Works: Rosario Dawson plays the lead in Unforgettable and she is quite good in the part. The character inserts herself into an existing family; she wants to establish a successful relationship with her stepdaughter and she experiences the pressure and frustration of being a new mother. The story gives some added dimension to Dawson’s character; she has put an abusive relationship behind her but Dawson’s character is haunted by post-traumatic stress. The residual trauma gives extra dramatic weight to this story and it is integrated into the film in a way that gives the protagonist and the conflict a little more depth. Dawson’s character hides her past from her new family out of a sense of shame and Unforgettable manages some poignancy when the feeling of victimhood resurfaces. The background information makes sense of otherwise illogical story details such as the lead character’s absence from social media and her refusal to tell her fiancé what is happening.
What Doesn’t: Unforgettable works within the conventions of thrillers like Fatal Attraction and Single White Female. We don’t see movies like that so much anymore but this is a weak imitation of the pictures which were so popular twenty-five years ago. The story adheres to the boiler plate of a domestic thriller. There are no surprises in this movie. Everyone is exactly who they initially appear to be. Rosario Dawson’s character is the hero, Katherine Heigl is the sinister ex-wife, David Connover is the well-meaning but oblivious husband, and Isabella Kai Rice is the daughter-as-Macguffin who passes between the two mothers like a trophy. This is a movie in which the characters don’t really behave like recognizable human beings and a lot of their actions and motivations are contorted to fit the arbitrary turns of the plot. The characters played by David Connover and Katherine Heigl don’t behave like a divorced couple and their scenes together are awkward instead of tense. For that matter, Katherine Heigl is miscast in this film. The role requires her to be a threat to her own family but Heigl is never able to summon that kind of villainy; she’s more like a cast member of The Real Housewives than the villainous nanny of The Hand that Rocks the Cradle. A lot of her scenes don’t match with the style and tone of the rest of the picture. That is especially apparent when Heigl shares the screen with Dawson, who comes across much more realistic against Heigl’s campy performance. Cheryl Ladd shows up as the mother of Heigl’s character. Ladd’s performance is soap opera worthy and the presence of her character creates more problems. The intent appears to be to soften the ex-wife and give her a tragic background. This filmmakers somewhat succeed but only enough to diminish her villainous stature and make the ex-wife pathetic instead of monstrous. Unforgettable is not an exciting movie. There is no tension and the scenes don’t build to a climax. The limpness of Unforgettable is partly due to its uninspired plot but also its flat style. Unforgettable has the production values of a made-for-television movie. The lighting, camera work, and art direction are plain and undramatic with interior locations often looking like the images of a furniture catalog. This is the first directorial effort by Denise Di Novi, who has extensive experience as a Hollywood producer. For someone presumably as acquainted with filmmaking as Di Novi ought to be, this film is surprisingly amateurish and unsophisticated in its visual style.
Bottom Line: Unforgettable plays like a movie that got lost on its way to the Lifetime channel. It’s not very tense or exciting. It is sometimes silly but never enough to make it really enjoyable.
Episode: #645 (April 30, 2017)