On its exterior, Unforgettable looks like a harlequin slice of sex vengeance camp grandiosity, but delivers each of those quadrants in mostly half measures. When the film flares up on that kind of entertainment, hold on to your hats – but you’ll find yourself wading through more lackadaisical chapters than salacious ones. A return to the erotic thrillers of a bygone era is hinted at, but there isn’t much going on above the knees. Unforgettable is unfortunately not quite the trash you want it to be.
Which isn’t to say that the unintentional comedy of a morbid thriller like Unforgettable is necessarily good when it succeeds. But at the very least, junk can entertain or commit to its own point of view while satisfying our sillier tastes. This film ends up becoming a little soft by whole stretches that do neither.
The drama is simple and rife for extremity: hip Julia (Rosario Dawson) moves in with her long-time boyfriend and his daughter, with the watchful eye of stuffy and creepy ex-wife Tessa (Katherine Heigl) always hovering. Julia has her own history with darkness, which Tessa seeks to exploit to ingratiate herself back into the happy home.
Never let it be said that these two actresses don’t always give a role their all. Heigl especially is asked to perform absurd behavior and dialogue written entirely in arched eyebrows (like masturbating to her own nefariousness), but somehow finds Tessa’s humanity. Heigl is touching and complicated in ways that far surprise what is asked of her, and all without sacrificing the twisted. Rosario Dawson has always been adept at rendering intense emotion with lesser material, and her effortless presence makes the performative Chill Girl exoskeleton thrust upon her more believable and less basic. It’s absurd that she isn’t taken more seriously as an actress and movie star with her skills.
You wouldn’t have guessed that the two would have such interesting chemistry but indeed they do, working well both on the natural side and the histrionics. They make the film fun and as real as it could possibly be.
There are many, many absurdities littered throughout the film that can only result in cackles of schadenfreude. Dawson’s catalog-ready home features a chess set made up of various salt and pepper shakers. The climactic battle has more destruction to Heigl’s endless collection of pottery than any bloodletting. Dawson is an editor for some kind of Xanga rip-off called ChapterPad. Subplots involve horses, microbreweries, and margaritas.
But otherwise, Unforgettable is too scattered in its delivery to result in some kind of “so bad it’s good” cult following. It’s hard to tell how accidental its missteps are, how seriously it takes itself, how much it even wants the audience involved. The result is a film that either needs to be a whole lot better or a whole lot worse to really sing.