Sunday, 23 April 2017
Unforgettable (2017) (Review)
If you are one to be enticed by erotic thrillers, you'll know what to expect with Denise Di Novi's Unforgettable; if you're unfamiliar with the genre, you will still probably work out exactly where this one is going in the first five minutes alone. Di Novi's directorial debut unfortunately becomes a thing of great irony, as the picture (starring Katherine Heigl and Rosario Dawson) is the very definition of okay. It is a watchable and sporadically entertaining popcorn flick but an equally forgettable and disposable one, tantamount to a Lifetime movie or a two-hours-to-kill-on-a-rainy-day Netflix watch.
With her ex-husband happily engaged to Julia (Dawson), Tessa Connover (Katherine Hiegl) is struggling to cope with the end of her marriage and the thought of another woman mothering her daughter, Lily. Facing personal demons of her own, Julia's attempt to adjust to her new found happiness is obstructed by Tessa's scheming and plotting. Determined to put an end to the new lover's relationship, Tessa's jealousy continues to heighten before making a drastic decision to take matters into her own hands.
Unforgettable certainly is a glossy film to look at, with some terrific direction from Denise Di Novi aiding the intense atmosphere it attempts to build throughout. From lingering shots constructing a unsteady intensity, to the tighter and closer shots utilised in the more intimate moments, the steamy thriller utilises its lightning and settings as effective metaphors. Tessa's sexual encounter (while an unfair, stereotypical allusion for villainy) is actually framed with a beautiful precision, notably contrasted with the sterile home environment and operating to show a mercurial woman, erratic and uncontrollable. It's easy to see where Di Novi has taken inspiration from, with the likes of Basic Instinct and Fatal Attraction serving as obvious reference points, enriching the visuals with a neo-noir quality that truly impresses on an aesthetic level. Its splashy production elements are satisfying, with some great locations designed to show the difference between the two woman, as well as some great outfit for Tessa, in particular.
Another element elevating the picture from sub-standard genre fare to something of a little more worth is the two central female performances; while their characters are rather one-note and poorly sketched, both Heigl and Dawson deliver committed turns with the material they are afforded. Heigl goes hell for leather as the camp, savage villain at the film's black heart, a highly-strung and possessive ex - a Catfish/Big Little Lies/Scream Queens/Desperate Housewives hybrid. Obviously haunted by her upbringing and obsessed with her own vanity, she continually strives for perfection and Heigl nails that; it is a rather hypnotising turn all told and while we certainly won't be seeing her on any year-end lists, you can appreciate the performance for elevating the film considerably. Dawson, naturally likeable, develops some of the emotion and torment of the piece, ensuring that audience's are rooting for her throughout, enrapturing them to will for her to either tell the truth or discover the truth before things get too bloody. Pushing against a poor script, they both come out of this rather well and their verbal (and physical) sparring peppered throughout Unforgettable are very often highlights of the picture.
Where Unforgettable becomes forgettable though is with the lacklustre script, a screenplay that feels wholly (and I mean wholly) predictable and uninspiring. You are continually waiting for a twist that does not come into fruition and it certainly offers nothing new to the genre, plumping for tropes and conventions like there is no tomorrow. It plays its major card way too early and would benefit from an additional mystery and some restraint, appearing happy in placing everything in frame from the word go. In medias res, one of my biggest pet hates in cinema, pretty much ruins anything the trailers haven't already given away, removing the element of surprise that typically ensnares a film with the tension it deserves. That's not to say it doesn't have its moment but the formulaic play-out is underwhelming to say the least. Furthermore, the characters are incredibly basic distillations of archetypes, with the script offering little in the way of substance to either the characters or the story beyond the initial premise. It is snappy enough but a ten minute trim would not go amiss, as the second act appears to sag ever so slightly. On the whole, Unforgettable is a wasted opportunity, with the script becoming the main influencer in that pervading feeling.
By no means should you rush out to see this one, but if you have a couple of hours to spare or want to stay in on a rainy day, maybe check this one out somewhere down the line. It offers nothing new to genre fans and even those somewhat blind when it comes to the sub-genre (like myself) will probably work out exactly where it is heading - but thanks to some lovely directing work and visuals, as well as two committed performances from Dawson and Heigl, you'll be entertained by this trashy genre fare. At best, it will be an entertaining 100 minutes; at worst, it will feel like a wasted opportunity that you will very quickly forget.
Summary: Most ironically, Unforgettable is the most forgettable film of the year so far. That's not to say it's actively bad - as two committed lead performances (from Katherine Heigl and Rosario Dawson) and some effective visuals prevent that - but it's not all that great either.