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Movie Review: Katherine Heigl is Surprisingly ‘Unforgettable’ as a Straight Up Psychopath

Unforgettable-Katherine-Heigl-Rosario-Dawson(CREDIT: Warner Bros.)

Starring: Rosario Dawson, Katherine Heigl, Geoff Stults

Director: Denise Di Novi

Running Time: 100 Minutes

Rating: R for Impromptu Bathroom Sex and Bloody Carpets

Release Date: April 21, 2017

When Sia’s “Bird Set Free” played at the end of The Shallows, it was one of the most cathartic cinematic moments of 2016. Domestic-revenge thriller Unforgettable bungles the proper order of things by playing this inspirational ballad over the opening credits. This ode to finding yourself in your own melodies is perfect for that moment when the lead character has gotten through all her hardships and is starting anew. This is actually how we are introduced to Julia Banks (Rosario Dawson), who is moving to a new city and getting engaged in the wake of escaping an abusive relationship, but the impact of that exuberance can only be felt mildly without experiencing those troubles alongside Julia.

Strangely enough, though, what Unforgettable most gets right is its pacing. That execution is essential, because otherwise this would just be the latest disposable Fatal Attraction copycat. And at first glance, Unforgettable appears to be totally forgettable. But that may be by design. Julia’s fiancée is conventionally handsome David (Geoff Stults), and David’s ex Tessa (Katherine Heigl) is still in the picture because they share custody of their daughter (Isabella Rice). Tessa clearly wants David back, because of what we assume to be run-of-the-mill jealousy but eventually reveals itself as stone cold, high camp psychopathy.

This might be the most self-aware performance Heigl has ever given. Certainly the script (by Christina Hodson and David Leslie Johnson) stealthily reveals itself to be playing off of her toxic reputation. Heigl’s string of ’00s rom-coms were alternately insipid and hateful; Unforgettable presupposes that maybe she was just being engineered to be a merciless killer the whole time.

In the question of nature vs. nurture, the latter seems to be the answer in this case, as Tessa’s obsessions are in large part the result of Mommie Dearest/Stepford-style engineering from Mom Cheryl Ladd. Tessa tries to present herself as simply high-strung, but the cracks gradually reveal themselves. Relatively mildly cutting dialogue like “Do you miss when Mommy and Daddy lived together?” eventually gives way to referring to her daughter as “living, breathing, perfect cement” and finally a climax in which she greets someone in bloody pain with, “You’ve handled this very poorly.” Sometimes, you just have to pull that ponytail tight and embrace the demon within.

Unforgettable is Recommended If You Like: Lifetime movies, Carrie, Allison Williams’ performance in Get Out

Grade: 3 out of 5 Knives to the Heart

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