It’s as if, for her directorial debut, longtime Hollywood producer Denise Di Novi followed every single rule in the How to Make a Lifetime Movie for Big Studios handbook. Heck, how did this even get approved by someone at Warner Brothers to be a theatrical release? Everything in Unforgettable is recycled from so many movies like it, namely Fatal Attraction. There isn’t a shred of originality in it, and there’s not really much of a reason to see it. Because you’ve seen it all before, and it’s been done better before.
With her wedding around the corner, Julia Banks (Rosario Dawson) makes the ultimate decision to turn her job as a book editor in San Francisco into a telecommute position, so she can move to Southern California and be closer to her soon-to-be husband, David (Geoff Stults) and his daughter, Lily (Isabella Rice). For a minute, this opening scene feels like the movie is ending with wide landscape shots of the Golden Gate Bridge and some modern R&B song playing in the background. Nope, it’s just a long, unnecessary establishing shot, which also shows Julia losing her luggage as she’s driving down the road. And yet, she doesn’t seem to care about all of her clothes being lost along the highway, because it never shows her getting upset about it.
So, as Julia is getting settled into her new place and being a stepmother, along comes, you guessed it, the ex-wife of her new fiancé. Tessa (Katherine Heigl) still can’t get over the divorce, even though she made some wrong decisions which ultimately led to it. But Tessa is bound on making Julia’s life a nightmare, uncovering some things from Julia’s past that even David doesn’t know.
On paper, Heigl going against type might have worked. It would be interesting to see her make a comeback in this kind of role or something that is not like anything else in which we’ve seen her. And it’s what Heigl desperately needs in her post-Grey’s Anatomy career. But the script doesn’t call for her to really give it all she’s got. Di Novi takes the safe route, and, in turn, Heigl delivers the most phoned-in performance of a crazy ex-wife in years.
We also get some pretty dull performances from Dawson and Stults. Cheryl Ladd, on the other hand, gets some entertaining scenes as the mother of Tessa, but even her role is a giant cliche.
Unforgettable takes so many cues from other movies that the element of surprise is never present. Toby Chu’s score gets amplified in certain moments where Heigl comes around a corner or Dawson has a nightmare. And there are so many moments in which Dawson gets scared at nothing or starts imagining things that turn out to be a false alarm. So, when certain things do start to actually happen, we’re not sure if we’re being tricked again or if what’s happening is legitimate, because the movie has fooled us so many times before that, at a certain point, it becomes tiresome.
Maybe if Unforgettable had indulged in being a trashy, ex-wife thriller, there might have been some guilty pleasure type of entertainment to be found. But Di Novi and crew spend so long in establishing that they want this to be a serious drama that it becomes more unintentionally laughable than it aims to be.