Unforgettable really should have been called something else. Not only because the Poppy Montgomery show will now have to share it, but because the film itself is far from its title (they walked themselves right into that one).
Rosario Dawson is Julia Banks, who has left the city for small town life with her white fiancé David Conover (Geoff Stults). And while his daughter Lilly (Isabella Rice) has taken to her, his ex-wife and Lilly’s mother Tessa (Katherine Heigl) has, to no one’s surprise, not. Blaming Julia for every little thing about Lilly’s care, she wants her out of their lives and will embark on devious schemes to make that happen.
Gee, this setup sounds really familiar, doesn’t it? Like something released only a couple months back (and might still be playing in places)? Get Out from a woman’s perspective would have been an interesting and worthwhile prospect, but this has no such aspirations; it really has no aspirations at all. Julia’s race is never brought up and there isn’t even any coded racist language that could’ve served as subtle provocations (i.e. “you people” and the like). And with a child in play, there’s the obvious theme of the image of the American family changing to fit modern reality, but some wanting to prevent that and bring it back to “how things should be.” Sure maybe that still can be read as subtext, but only if the reader is straining.
On a somewhat related note in how the movie holds back, this is also supposed to be an “erotic thriller” but there’s virtually no real eroticism to be found. What is there is downright embarrassing compared to the average sub-genre entry two decades back. Lacking purpose, the picture just goes on lifelessly, revealing itself as a hopelessly generic waste of time.
Racism informing Tessa’s psychopathy would also be preferable because she doesn’t have much of a consistent one otherwise. There are some scenes which imply that it’s the influence of her own overbearing mother (Cheryl Ladd), then there’s mention of a childhood incident. But not only do the feelings stirring it not show up in her personality and motives at all when they really should, they’re contradicted by some of her actions. These things seem to just change around when they’re convenient to the plot.
But let’s back up a minute. The movie actually starts by jumping to the beginning of the third act, where Julia is in police custody (Robert Ray Wisdom – Bunny Colvin from The Wire – makes an appearance here as the detective on the case), beaten up, and being questioned for the death of a man she had some sliver of a motive to want dead. How did this all happen, the cops ask. Then it rewinds half a year and we’re in the story proper.
This is called (we all know this but apparently the makers don’t) a framing device, meaning that what is shown on screen should be Julia’s account of the events. However, numerous scenes are shown from Tessa’s side and show things that Julia could not have possibly known. Now, this also could have been a deconstruction, with that opening to serve as a signal to the audience that they know that we know that things are going to come to this. But of course, there’s no other elements to indicate such.
So as far as the expanding pantheon of the interracial relationship horror/thriller movie goes, Unforgettable is definitely no Get Out or even anywhere near Lakeview Terrace. No, it occupies the same low rungs as Obsessed, though this one at least goes for an R rating and Dawson is pretty good. But that’s not enough to make it fit the title. It is instead: Forgettable.