REVIEW: Unforgettable

26 04 2017

For the better part of a decade, Katherine Heigl has struggled to shake off a reputation of being disagreeable. Much of this stems from a 2007 interview about “Knocked Up” where she chided the film’s supposed sexist treatment of female characters. (Inner publicist note: had she just waited and made the comment in retrospect, it’s likely no one would have found it controversial.) But ever since, many in the culture have projected their worst ideas about outspoken women onto her. She often wears the dreaded label of “unlikable.”

After countless attempts to correct the narrative by starring in sunny rom-coms, network television procedurals and a few indies, Heigl finally leans into the bad rap as the villain of “Unforgettable.” In Denise Di Novi’s domestic thriller, she plays Tessa Connover, the eerie ex-wife who torments her former flame’s new dame, Rosario Dawson’s Julia Banks. The film’s twist on the catfight genre is that Julia herself is not purely a victim or object of terror. She’s a survivor of domestic abuse dealing with lingering distress of her own.

Tessa plays manipulative mind games behind a placid exterior, though in Heigl’s hands, it often comes across as wooden. For these films to successfully scare, there needs to be some element of mystery behind the machinations of menace. Tessa is essentially an open book; in Heigl’s defense, the obvious broadcasting of her character’s motivations and actions is also a fault at the script level. But just as she could have spoken up and changed things with “Knocked Up,” Heigl could have added some mystery to her performance to strengthen the film. Tessa is her way of winking at the audience and admitting she knows what they think of her. Little in “Unforgettable” makes a compelling case for why people should change their minds. C+