Sunday, 23 April 2017

Denise Di Novi - Unforgettable

"Unforgettable" is the debut cinematic feature from Denise Di Novi, who prior to sitting in the Director's Chair for the first time has produced/co-produced over 40 films spanning 4 decades in Hollywood, collaborating with Directors such as Dan Fogelman, Glenn Ficarra and Tim Burton.

It is not my intention to provide spoilers for the coming film, but rather my purpose is to give an overall flavour as I do not want to spoil this film in any way. Moreover, all of my film blogs are an appreciation of the film's crafted by a wonderful Director and a thorough recommendation to suspend your disbelief and enjoy this cinematic creation.

Unforgettable (2017)

"You shouldn't have brought her here"

Written by Christina Hodgson (Shut In) and adapted for the screen by David Leslie Johnson (Orphan and Conjuring 2) I watched Denise Di Novi's directorial debut effort knowing absolutely nothing whatsoever about Unforgettable having seen no trailers or buzz surrounding the film and until the film's final Act I was very impressed with Di Novi's first film from the Director's Chair. The final twenty minutes sorely disappointed me but not so much by it's formulaic and signposted finale that I guessed and was expecting but more so that the ending thoroughly let down an accomplished, entertaining and gently simmering thriller that preceded it. For this thriller, which is loosely in the vein of Fatal Attraction, simmers rather than bringing the pot (and indeed the bunny) to the boil and when it does in the film's final Act it lets down a good film that comes before it. The minimal shocks and scares are juxtaposed with the bright and beautiful California setting and perfectly encapsulate the film's schizophrenic sense of dread and foreboding that is gently building in the sunshine paradise experienced by online story editor "Julia Banks" (Rosario Dawson). Julia has moved to California to be with her husband to be "David Connover" (Geoff Stults) but quickly finds herself in the centre of a power struggle and tug of war for David's affections from his young daughter "Lily Connover" (Isabella Kai Rice) but more so her Mother and David's ex wife "Tessa Connover" (Katherine Heigl). Despite the outside distractions it's evidently clear that both Julia and David are besotted and completely in love with one another but will their love overcome the evil intentions of a scheming and manipulative ex wife?

Although the film does completely fall over in it's final Act there is a lot to admire in Unforgettable and particularly so the film's two central female performances from Rosario Dawson and Katherine Heigl. As a long time admirer of Dawson I wasn't surprised at her accomplished performance here as the effervescent, smiling and warm hearted Julia and these characteristics draw empathy from the audience as the plot unravels and as we gather her back story. She has the very best of intentions and yet is stuck in a perpetual whirlpool of emotional distress that you can't help but feel sorry for her predicament, whereas Katherine Heigl's performance as arch villain Tessa elicits quite differing emotions from the audience! Smothered by her overbearing Mother (with Cheryl Ladd in a cameo and directing operations from the shadows), Tessa is uptight, elegantly and immaculately dressed and made up and just simply exudes the coldness of a spurned lover and arch manipulator with her icy cold glares and stares that pierce the screen every time she appears. Heigl's performance as a "Psycho Barbie" is perhaps the film's true stand out as she dominates every time she appears, whether with her young daughter as she helps her dress for the day "Now you're perfect. Just like Mummy", her aggressive horse rides and car ride before the ultimate betrayal and signifier of the times to come as she dons that virginal white dress so loved by her rival Julia. Stuck in the middle of this rivalry is David, an affluent and recently successful brewery owner, with Geoff Stults portraying a rather one dimensional role admirably well in a film that has a predominance of female characters, rounded off by Whitney Cummings as "Ali" and a particularly strong cameo from Marissa Morgan as Julia's best friend and confidant.

I was and remain particularly impressed with the first hour of Unforgettable as I found it a refreshing take on the revenge thriller genre with it's slow burning plot that wasn't aiming to scare it's audience with shocks and scares at every turn but rather slowly building the tension with awkward silences and glances that often permeate the film. Special kudos should also be presented to first time Director Di Novi for this freshness and for her camera as another character in the film as it whirls in a circular motion at a local fair in search of a lost child and acts as an abductor in the same scene or as a home intruder in another of the film's pivotal scenes. Similarly so with her shot of mother and daughter at a dressing table mirror that oozes a sense of dread when it simply shouldn't and a constant contrast between the dazzling light of the day and the imposing dread and dark shadows of the night.

The film does fall over towards the end into a bloody farce and the final two minutes should have been left on the cutting room floor but I rather enjoyed the ride until then in a pertinent take on familial and relationship breakdowns and those caught in the web in the centre, as well as shining a light on the social media landscape of our day and the perils of cyber stalking and the anonymity that can be engineered at the click of a mouse button.

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