Sunday, April 23, 2017

Unforgettable

1/4

Starring: Rosario Dawson, Katherine Heigl, Geoff Stults, Isabella Kai Rice, Cheryl Ladd

Rated R for Sexual Content, Violence, Some Language and Brief Partial Nudity

The "stranger within" genre, also known as the "(blank) from hell" genre, is among my favorites because, no matter how similar one film is to the next, they usually work.  This is because movies like "Fatal Attraction" and "Fear" understand that good writing and acting are at the heart of every movie.  To be sure, the gifts of Adrian Lyne and James Foley (and their contemporaries in the genre) aren't to be overlooked, but directorial showmanship is not usually a necessity of the genre.  However, the opposite is true.  With bad writing and acting, these movies can sink like a dead rock.  Just look at "The Resident" (or rather, just take my word for it).  At least "The Boy Next Door" was stupid fun.  The same cannot be said about "Unforgettable," which is simply dull.

Julia Banks (Dawson) is moving upstate to be with her fiancĂ©e, David Connover (Stults).  She'll work from home while he gets to be with his brewery and his daughter Lily (Rice).  Of course, that comes with the price of living in the same town as his ex, Tessa (Heigl).  Tessa feels like Julia is intruding on her turf, and she views her with hostility.  Her passive-aggressiveness turns violent when she finds out that Julia and David intend on walking down the aisle.

There are so many problems with this movie that it's impossible to list them all.  It's dumb, it's not well-acted, it's not sexy and it's not interesting.  It's even a little sick.  Above all, it's boring.  Even the lamest variations on this story ("The Hand that Rocks the Cradle" and "Bad Influence," for example, can at least manage a few cheap shocks.  There are some here, but they're more of a whimper.  This movie is not fun.

The acting doesn't impress.  Rosario Dawson doesn't get half the attention she deserves, but even someone who deserves to be on the B-list shouldn't have to appear in something this bland.  She is, however, the saving grace.  Without her charisma and ability to make Julia's stupidity seem credible, this movie would be truly awful.  I'm not a fan of Katherine Heigl.  Sure, she's cute and has a killer smile, but she can't act.  Add in her notorious behavior on set and the fact that her time on "Grey's Anatomy" is over and it's no wonder she rarely gets roles these days.  To be fair, there are moments when she's credible.  When we see her obsessively strive for perfection or set up her traps for Julia, we get a sense of Tessa's pathological mindset.  Speaking, however, usually ruins the effect.  Geoff Stults is an underrated character actor (acting circles around Matt Czuchry in "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell," for example.  Not that that was much of a challenge), and he and Dawson have good chemistry.  But not even he can survive the utterly brainless things his character has to do.  It's as if he underwent a frontal lobotomy when the final act rolls around.  Ex-"Charlie's Angels" star Cheryl Ladd appears as Tessa's domineering mother, and under the circumstances, she's quite good.

"Unforgettable" is the directorial debut of longtime producer Denise De Novi.  Based on the evidence, she should stick to her day job.  She has no grasp for directing actors or creating escalating tension.  True, even the best thrillers don't hold up upon close examination, but it's the job of the filmmaker to scare us enough that we don't notice until long after the end credits roll.  She doesn't succeed.  Actually, for most of the movie it seems like she's trying to make a different movie.  Maybe she thought the script was a drama about the stresses of a woman entering into a relationship with a divorced couple with one party clearly having mental issues.  I don't think so, however, since it's clear that this is simply a thriller.

Call it what you want, but the end result is still the same: this movie sucks.

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