Review by Eric Hillis
Directed by: Denise Di Novi
Starring: Rosario Dawson, Katherine Heigl, Geoff Stults, Whitney Cummings, Cheryl Ladd
For a few years there at the turn of the decade, Katherine Heigl was the go to leading lady for Hollywood rom-coms. It was a role I never bought her in; to me, her icy Teutonic exterior always suggested Heigl would have been far more comfortable playing the bitchy villain roles in those movies rather than the loveable girl next door type. After a stint in straight to VOD hell for the last few years, Heigl is back on the big screen, play just such a bitchy villain in the sort of movie that seems custom made for a small screen debut.
In veteran producer Denise Di Novi's directorial debut, Unforgettable, Rosario Dawson plays Julia, a magazine editor who quits her post in San Francisco and moves to WASPville USA, population 12,200 and one blond haired psycho soccer Mom, Heigl's Tessa, who unfortunately happens to be the ex-wife of Julia's husband to be, micro-brewery owner David (Geoff Stults).
It's not long before Tessa is plotting the downfall of her ex's new lover, constantly combing her golden locks in the mirror like a negative image of Maleficent. It begins with some old-fashioned bitchiness, but things take a deadly turn when Tessa creates a fake Facebook account, which she uses to lure Julia's abusive former lover back into her life.
Heigl is clearly having a blast here playing a curious hybrid of Michael Myers and a Stepford Wife. Her performance recalls the golden era of American soap operas, and when she makes it look like Dawson has pushed her down a flight of stairs, it's hard not to imagine what fun these two women could have in a modern Dynasty reboot. When Heigl and Dawson are on screen together, verbally or physically sparring, the movie receives an energy boost that's sorely lacking elsewhere. Remove the pair and you have the most generic Lifetime movie of the week imaginable (it even features former Charlie's Angel Cheryl Ladd as Heigl's domineering mother), or a '90s Shannon Tweed erotic thriller minus the nudity.
Di Novi stepped in when the film's original director, Amma Asante, walked off the project, along with original leads Kate Hudson and Kerry Washington. Knowing Asante's cinematic preoccupations, it's easy to surmise the Black-British filmmaker's version of Unforgettable would have played up the racial aspect of its narrative. Aside from an early throwaway line from Heigl about Dawson's food being too spicy for her daughter, Di Novi's final cut exists in a post-racial Neverland. Had the film dared to explore this aspect it would no doubt be one of the year's most talked about movies, particularly given the final interaction between its black and white leads. As it is, it's instantly...well, you can insert your own pun here.
Unforgettable is in UK/ROI cinemas April 21st.