Unforgettable Review: Privileged White Female
Unforgettable marks the directorial debut of longtime film producer Denise Di Novi. The film tells the story of Julia Banks (Rosario Dawson), a successful editor who after a bad and abusive relationship has finally found David Connover (Geoff Stults), the man of her dreams. Soon after their engagement, David asks Julia to move from San Francisco to Los Angeles to start their life together. Knowing that the transition will take time, Julia tries her best to adjust to the new location and lifestyle. Julia moves into David’s home and begins to bond his daughter Lily (Isabella Kai Rice). Everything seems to be going according to plan until Tessa (Katherine Heigl), David’s ex-wife, keeps showing up to their home and attempts to tear their relationship apart.
If you have seen the trailers or television spots for Unforgettable, you know what this film is about and what it is ultimately going for. I walked into Unforgettable expecting the worst but oddly enough, I found myself thoroughly amused and entertained by the film. Now, I am sure some will argue that this film is trying to tell a serious cautionary tale but I don’t buy that, not even for a second. Unforgettable, in my eyes at least, is a film that pokes fun at the Lifetime movie cliches while making a statement about rich and snooty women that live in upscale suburban neighborhoods in major areas such as Los Angeles.
Katherine Heigl has never been better than she is here as Tessa Connover. Heigl’s performance brings the term “crazy bitch” to a whole new level. Tessa is this privileged rich woman that has constantly gotten everything that she has ever wanted in her life. She was raised by a controlling and equally, privileged mother played by Cheryl Ladd and lives in a beautiful home where she spends hours upon hours of her day looking in the mirror to ensure she looks perfect before leaving the house.
Tessa is extremely manipulative and controlling. There are several scenes between Tessa and Lily that are downright terrifying because as a viewer you can only imagine how damaged that little girl will become later in life as she grew up constantly being controlled by her mother. To top things off, Tessa won’t let go of her past and will stop at nothing to ensure that she gets what she wants. Her actions throughout the film just get more and more extreme. What starts off as simple jealousy quickly spirals into extreme and deadly behavior. Heigl just takes the source material and makes it work. Her performance is so sinister yet her line delivery is so dead pan. It’s the perfect combination for this type of extreme character representation.
The interaction between Heigl’s Tessa and Dawson’s Julia is what makes the film work so well. You can tell right from the start that Julia is someone that isn’t used to the fake and phony LA lifestyle. Yes, Julia has some secrets which she is afraid to share with David, but she isn’t the type of woman that pretends to be someone she’s not. When Tessa and Julia meet for the first time, you immediately feel the tension as their personalities clash. Julia wears comfortable clothing while Tessa is always overdressed. In one scene, Tessa shows up to the house as Julia and Lily are about to eat dinner. Lily asks if Tessa can stay for dinner and sure enough because Tessa is there, Lily doesn’t eat. Tessa quickly begins to judge Julia’s cooking saying it’s “too spicy” for her and then turns around and asks if they have anything organic in the house to make her. I could help but laugh at this scene because it is “so LA.”
I must give a lot of credit to Rosario Dawson as well because Julia is more or less playing the everyday woman that enters into this world of craziness. Dawson, who has proven over the years that she can tackle almost every genre, really plays it’s straight here. Her character Julia is not a perfect person and has a big secret that she is trying to handle on her own. It is interesting because while some may argue that she isn’t being honest with her soon to be husband, I think people easily forget how flawed people are and how most try to hide things they aren’t proud of. We can easily say as a viewer that Julia should come clean to David but in reality, it isn’t that easy.
Considering what we learn about Julia from the opening scene, you know that things are going to get a bit crazy as the film unfolds. The film goes places that are so ridiculous that you can’t help but laugh. I think in a lot of ways Unforgettable is a parody not only of the genre made famous by Lifetime but rather the extreme behavior of what people do in order to get what they want. Julia is someone that you can tell has good intentions but sometimes good intentions don’t always work out in your favor. I loved how as the film went on you can see Julia start losing control as Tessa continues to mess with her head and get under her skin. You can see how Julia’s past tied in with Tessa’s actions and how Julia is ultimately forced to come clean about everything.
Denise Di Novi directs the film as if it is an episode of a soap opera. The film feels like a made for television movie but again, I think that is done on purpose since, in my eyes, I believe this is just a parody of the whole jealous ex-wife storyline. Di Novi captures the humor in many unlikely situations and even manages to create a montage that involves bathroom sex and cyber sex. This scene walks a fine line of desperation while also being extremely comedic because of the way that Di Novi presents the actions within this montage.
All in all, Unforgettable is a delightful Lifetime movie parody that also manages to poke fun at the privileged. It is the type of film that should be just enjoyed instead of pulled apart. This is not a film for critics but rather a great film to see with a group of friends and just enjoy for all its glory. Unforgettable ends on a huge laugh that could possibly lead to a sequel. I hope that happens because I would happily sit through Still Unforgettable.