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Movie Review

Becoming a stepmother isn't for the faint of heart, even under the best of circumstances. But when your soon-to-be new husband's ex-wife is an obsessive, jealous, devious, unhinged psychopath, well, that makes things even harder.

That's the situation Julia Banks faces in her relationship with David Connover. He's an absolute dream come true for Julia. Especially, compared to her last relationship with Michael Vargas, who beat Julia so badly that she had to get a restraining order against him.

Julia's determined that this relationship is going to be different. Better. As perfect as she can possibly make it. So much so that she's moved from San Francisco to live with David in Southern California before they tie the knot. She's all in, and she's ready to leave her grim past behind (even if the nightmares and flashbacks about it still haunt her almost daily).

Julia knew that being a stepmother to David's young daughter, Lilly, was going to be an adjustment. For her. For Lilly. For everyone. She also knew from David that his icily beautiful ex, Tessa, had some, um, issues.

And, boy, does Tessa have issues.

In fact, David himself doesn't even know how deep his ex-wife's instabilities go. But Julia and David are about to find out what happens to an obsessive, jealous, devious, unhinged, psychopathic ex-wife when her former husband tries to move on with someone new.

Let's just say that Tessa's not about to yield her old life—especially when it comes to her daughter, Lilly—easily.

Or maybe at all.

Positive Elements

David and Julia are deeply committed to each other. Though they're living together, it's clear that they're moving quickly toward marriage.

Tessa deviously seeks to undermine their relationship first in subtle ways, then in much more significant ones. When odd, unexplainable things begin happening—Julia's phone disappears, then her engagement ring does as well—it slowly begins to drive a wedge between the couple. Julia's rightfully paranoid, but David struggles to believe and accept his fiancée's growing sense that Tessa is behind all the weird things that are happening. In the end, though, David sides with Julia, whose suspicions of Tessa are well-founded. And Julia will do anything to defend him from the ferocity that Tessa eventually unleashes.

Julia also does her very best to be a kind, gentle and understanding mother-figure to little Isabelle (who's perhaps 8 or 9 years old). Lilly is chilly toward her future stepmom at first, but Julia's consistent love and compassion in simple ways eventually defrost the little girl's heart. It becomes increasingly apparent that Tessa's parenting style is rigid, legalistic and emotionally abusive to Lilly. Julia, in contrast, is a natural when it comes to being a loving mom.

Tessa, for her part, is a damaged, deranged train wreck of a human being. Obviously, that's not good. Still, we see that she's become that way in large measure because of her own mother, Helen, who's similarly mean, manipulative, perfectionist and driven above all by the need to present an unblemished image to the world. In that sense, the film painfully illustrates how a parent's extreme character flaws influence the next generation negatively—a cautionary message of sorts.

Spiritual Content

A song on the soundtrack repeatedly emphasizes the word "blessings." What appears to be a Buddha statue is visible in the background of one scene.

Sexual Content

Three lengthy sex scenes include explicit movements, but characters remain more or less strategically covered (though we do see a lot of a woman's leg and a man's bare chest in one scene). Characters have sex in several places: a bed, a car, a public restroom. One of those scenes also visually suggests oral sex. Elsewhere, there's a similar suggestion (implied but not fully shown) of a woman masturbating during an online chat session.

Julia and David kiss frequently and passionately. They're also repeatedly shown in bed together, though often with space between them that's obviously intended to represent the growing problems in their relationship.

Tessa invites Julia to have lunch with her. During a deliberately manipulative conversation, Tessa goes on and on verbally about how her sex life with David was the primary glue in their relationship. She says he was so insatiable in that area that she was often worn out.

Julia and Tessa both wear various revealing and skin-tight outfits throughout the film. We see an unclothed woman begin to get in the bathtub. (The camera briefly glimpses her bare rear and the side of her breast.) Tessa looks at sensual (but not nude) pictures of Julia on the latter's phone. Tessa eventually sends one of those pics to Michael (posing as Julia).

Julia eventually learns that Tessa's father had an affair with a younger woman and abandoned the family, which was the catalyst for Tessa having a psychotic episode as a teen. Tessa steals a pair of Julia's lacey underwear from the other woman's dresser as part of an attempt to frame her. Someone else makes a joke about "granny panties." There's also a revelation about Tessa having cheated on David while they were still married.

Violent Content

This movie builds slowly but inexorably toward its forgone conclusion: a massive melee between Julia and Tessa. Their mutual beat down is a savage one, with Julia and Tessa trading physical blows, throwing each other around and basically bashing each other with whatever is at hand. Tessa nearly breaks one of Julia's legs hitting her with a fireplace poker. Julia rams Tessa's head into a glass-framed picture, which shatters and temporarily knocks Tessa out. There's choking and desperate attempts by both women to get at the other's face. Tessa ends up with multiple deep scratches on both sides of her face, the sight of which utterly horrifies the perfectionist beauty when she eventually catches sight of herself in the mirror.

Before that final encounter, Tessa tries to paint Julia as the violent one by throwing herself down a flight of stairs, then claiming Julia pushed her (which she didn't).

[Spoiler Warning] Tessa has a shocked moment of shame and, perhaps, a kind of clarity after she sees herself in the mirror. Julia is holding a butcher knife in front of herself to ward off Tessa, and Tessa embraces her purposefully, plunging the blade suicidally into her stomach. Her dying request to Julia is, "Please, don't let Lilly remember me like this."

Throughout the film, Julia has disturbing flashbacks of her ex, Michael, hitting her. When Michael finally shows up at her house (which Tessa has masterminded, of course), he again beats her horribly, slamming her face into a cabinet which instantly bruises and slices it. He also pulls her hair back harshly to hold her head in place while he menaces her.

Elsewhere, a man is slashed with a knife, stabbed in the leg and finally stabbed fatally in the chest. Another character is brutally knocked out, bloodying that person's face and head, with that aforementioned fireplace poker. Someone has his mouth and hands taped up as well.

Crude or Profane Language

Four spoken f-words, two shown written out on a computer screen. Four s-words. God's name is also abused four times. There's one use each of "d--n" and "h---."

Drug and Alcohol Content

David is in the process of fulfilling his vocational dream: opening his own brew pub. Several scenes take place there, and various characters are shown drinking beer and champagne. Elsewhere, characters drink wine (sometimes alone). We also see Tessa and Julia drinking margaritas at lunch together. Still another scene pictures someone with a martini glass in hand. We hear someone refer to scotch.

Verbal reference is made to the fact that Julia has quit smoking. During a stressful moment, we see her with a pack of cigarettes in her hand. Her pensive expression seems to denote temptation, but she doesn't cave in to it. Tessa, for her part, puffs and exhales dramatically from an e-cigarette.

Other Negative Elements

Tessa's devious actions are practically a case study in identity theft. She purloins Julia's smartphone, then downloads its contents onto her laptop. There's nary a detail from Julia's life that's not on her phone, much of which Tessa uses against her.

Tessa discovers Julia's connection to Michael Vargas, for instance. Tessa also creates a fake Facebook page for Julia, which Tessa uses to contact Michael while posing as Julia (as well as trying to frame Julia in other ways as well.)

The only way Tessa knows how to "love" her daughter, Lilly, is through strict control and discipline. Tessa's furious that Lilly is gravitating toward Julia emotionally. Not surprisingly, Lilly chooses to be with Julia instead of Tessa in a tense scene, and Tessa eventually punishes her daughter harshly for that choice by cutting off her long hair and shaming her.

Julia asks her coworker and friend Ali to help her get some information on Tessa. Ali says that sometimes it's good to have a former convicted hacker on staff. Eventually, Julia learns dark details of Tessa's past as well.

For much of the movie, Julie is afraid to tell David the story of what happened between her and Michael, at times lying about it.

Conclusion

Unforgettable might better have been titled Totally Predictable. There's no nuance or mystery here. The only question is how intense the preordained claws-out fight between Julia (Rosario Dawson) and Tessa (Katherine Heigl) is going to be.

It's pretty intense, I guess. The audience I saw the film with was certainly "oooh"-ing it up each time one woman landed a fierce attack on the other, like it was particularly high-stakes pro wrestling match.

But if we step back from that overwrought, violent melodrama for just a moment here, we might have time to ponder this question: Do we really need to see a movie about two women locked in mortal combat?

In addition to that philosophical question, there's content aplenty here as well. Multiple sex scenes narrowly avoid full nudity; but there's no question at all about what's going on. Add in Julia's abusive ex returning to pummel her brutally once again—the very thing that's given her nightmares throughout the film—and you've got a movie that pummels moviegoers as well.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults

Credits

Rating

R

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Rosario Dawson as Julia Banks; Katherine Heigl as Tessa Connover; Geoff Stults as David Connover; Isabella Rice as Lily Connover; Cheryl Ladd as Helen; Simon Kassianides as Michael Vargas; Whitney Cummings as Ali; Robert Wisdom as Detective Pope

Director

Denise Di Novi ( )

Distributor

Warner Bros.

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

April 21, 2017

On Video

July 25, 2017

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Adam R. Holz

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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