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“Unforgettable” Movie Review by Van Roberts

Gals, looking for a ladies’ night out movie? Look no further than “Unforgettable” (*** OUT OF ****), a melodramatic but entertaining psycho-Barbie, homicide saga. Rosario Dawson and Katherine Heigl co-star as two dames duking it out over one dude.  First-time director Denise Di Novi and scenarists Christina Hodson of “Shut In” and David Leslie Johnson of “Orphan” have forged a tense, occasionally erotic, psychologically driven thriller like “Play Misty For Me” (1971), “Fatal Attraction” (1987), “Single White Female” (1992), “Obsessed” (2009), and “When the Bough Breaks” (2016).  Sweet and innocent from the start, Rosario Dawson plays Julia Banks, the good girl of the two.  She is far more naïve than her troubled past would lead us to believe.  Basically, she amounts to a damsel-in-distress fighting for her life against Katherine Heigl’s diabolical, homicidal, divorcee, Tessa Connover.  If anything is ‘unforgettable’ about “Unforgettable,” the casting of Katherine Heigl as the blond spawn of Satan qualifies as ‘unforgettable.’  Two years ago, in the amusing, straight to video shock comedy “Home Sweet Hell” (2015), Heigl carved up three villains with power tools and a samurai sword who sought to blackmail her horny, philandering husband.  Heigl delivers a tour-de-force performance in “Unforgettable.”  Moreover, as a testament to her thespian gifts, she never blinks as she devises several audacious acts of outrage.  Heigl fans will savor her sinister performance.  Of course, Heigl won’t land an Oscar nomination for being cast against type, but it reflects another facet of her persona.

“Unforgettable” opens at a Malibu police station. An African-American detective and a uniformed patrol woman amass plenty of incriminating evidence against Julia Banks (Rosario Dawson of “Kids”) for the murder of Michael Vargas (Simon Kassianides of “Quantum of Solace”), her sadistic ex-boyfriend. Earlier, Vargas had been under a restraining order to stay away from her.  Julia cannot believe that the authorities may charge her with his murder.  She remembers stabbing Vargas in the thigh before she fled in hysteria from her house.  During their momentary but violent clash, Vargas slammed Julia’s face into a kitchen cabinet, and she brandished a knife.  Apparently, Vargas labored under the mistaken notion that Julia wanted to resume their relationship where they left off prior to the restraining order.  a digital literary magazine. After obtaining a restraining order against Vargas, Julia met a former Merrill Lynch stockbroker, David Connover (Geoff Stults of “Wedding Crashers”), who has invested everything in a microbrewery.  The two plan to marry, and Julia relocates to Malibu where David and his six-old daughter, Lily Connover (newcomer Isabella Kai Rice), reside in serenity.  Trouble arises because neither told Tessa Connover (Katherine Heigl of “27 Dresses”) about their plans.

As it turns out, Tessa Connover stands between Julia and her ex-husband David, and she abhors the idea that another woman will supervise her daughter.  Initially, Tessa appears reasonably hospitable when she welcomes Julia.  Beneath her false mask of affability, Tessa smolders with incendiary rage.  If ever English playwright William Congreve’s oft-paraphrased line “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” applied to a character, it applies to Tessa. Tessa is a fiend.  Tall, statuesque, her blond hair parted down the middle and draping like shorn curtains at her shoulders, Tessa is a model of physical perfection in outfits that fit her like a sheathe.  She resembles a trophy wife, but she is an overbearing witch.  She insists on having everything done to her specifications, and Julia can do nothing right, particularly with her impressionable daughter.  Not long after the two women encounter each other, things sour between them.   admits to Julia that she destroyed her own marriage when she cheated on David.  Now, David has custody of Lily, but the court has allotted Tessa a couple of days each week with Lily.  Tessa treats Lily like a captive, brushing her hair as if she were stropping a razor. When Lily warms up to Julia, Tessa cuts her hair severely and then blames everything on Julia.  Interestingly, Tessa suffered a similar fate as Lily because her own heartless mother, Helen (Cheryl Ladd of “Purple Hearts”), treated Tessa with the same affection that a drill sergeant reserves for recruits.  Tessa’s life revolves around a mirror, and Helen still expects her daughter to live up to the mirror.

Although she has lost David, Tessa won’t admit to herself the marriage couldn’t be salvaged.  She launches a campaign against Julia that takes on the magnitude of a full-scale war.  First, she steals Julia’s cell phone, imports the information to her own computer, and sets up a Facebook pal for Julia.  Julia represents one of the few people alive today without a Facebook page, and she never realizes the extent to which Tessa invades her privacy.  Tessa conducts a background check on Julia, and she learns about the restraining order against Michael.  After she creates Julia’s Facebook page, Julia arranges a reunion between Julia and Michael.  She impersonates Julia on the phone, so Michael will imagine that Julia has absolved him of all his sins. Meantime, Julia doesn’t have a clue about anything that the nefarious Tessa is plotting behind her back, such as sneaking into David’s house and stealing Julia’s wedding ring that once belonged to David’s grandmother.  Tessa has even managed to make Julia look foolhardy in David’s eyes when Julia loses track of Lily during a community fair.

“Unforgettable” maintains a steady head of steam before it wobbles somewhere during its third half-hour.  Di Nova and her writers bring the conflict between Julia and Tessa to boil about an hour into “Unforgettable,” and Julia begins to feel the heat. Nevertheless, the movie boasts a slam-bang finale.  Unquestionably, “Unforgettable” deserves a straight-to-video sequel as Di Nova’s film concludes with such a sizzle. “Unforgettable” ranks as a hybrid chick flick/horror movie with more than enough moments of suspense and intrigue.  Katherine Heigl looks like she had a blast playing a notorious vixen, and she is fun to watch as she manipulates everybody around her.

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