Katherine Heigl stars as Tessa, the uptight Stepford ex of a man so bland his name makes no impression, but he looks like he’s the type to wear North Face and sandals at the same time, and he’s played by Geoff Stults (Zoo, Seventh Heaven). Tessa and North Face aren’t having a great divorce, and it’s made even more complicated when North Face brings his fiancé, Julia (Rosario Dawson), to live with him. Julia is a free spirit which we know because her hair is always vaguely messy. Hair is very important in Unforgettable. Every character can be summed up by their hair. Julia’s hair is wild and curly: Earthy free spirit. Tessa’s hair is obsessively flat-ironed and styled in the Goop center part: Suburban psychotic prone to arson. And North Face has a Tom Brady haircut: Mediocre white male.
Tessa’s whole deal is that her mom sucks and she probably has a personality disorder which has never been addressed because her mom sucks. Her sucky mom expects her to be living a perfect affluent suburban life, but the divorce has marred Tessa’s Icy Barbie façade. Cheryl Ladd is on hand to play Tessa’s domineering mother, and the best scene in the movie is the one in which you can see the multi-generational damage being passed around from Sh*t Mom’s unrealistic expectations of rich people perfection.
Meanwhile, Julia is hiding the fact that she has an abusive ex who is stalking her because she can’t renew her restraining order for reasons that are never explained. She’s paranoid and jumpy and obviously coming apart and North Face is like, “You’ll be fine,” because he is the least observant or sympathetic character ever written. It’s never clear why anyone would choose to fight to the death over this non-fat vanilla latte.
It would make so much more sense if Tessa’s issue was that Julia awoke a desire within her that her super-conformist upbringing didn’t prepare her to handle, and so she lashes out and tries to destroy the object of her “forbidden” affection. (That would also make sense of the title, because as it stands “Unforgettable” has nothing to do with anything.) But instead we get a tug-of-war over a half-empty can of flat white paint.
Bless her heart, Heigl certainly throws herself into this role with, to paraphrase Joanna, total commitment. Unfortunately, she’s committed to terrible material, and Unforgettable doesn’t have enough style to bring it around to camp. It’s just bad melodrama featuring a scene in which Tessa angrily show-jumps her horse around a paddock (#whiterage). That is, admittedly, a delightful scene, but there’s not enough like it in the rest of the movie. Unforgettable can’t decide between being a (half-assed) female empowerment narrative or a B-grade psycho-sexual exploitation thriller—wifesploitation—but it definitely errs on the exploitative side.
Katherine Heigl is in actress jail for a lot of reasons—top of my list is ruining Stephanie Plum—and Unforgettable isn’t going to help her get out. It bombed over the weekend, so the audience isn’t there for her, and while she is admirably committed, so were the musicians on the Titanic. She isn’t good enough to save Unforgettable, and it’s not good-bad enough to go down as a worthy B-movie. The best thing about Unforgettable is the inevitable episode of How Did This Get Made that it will inspire.