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‘Unforgettable’ review: Til death do you part

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'Unforgettable' review: Til death do you part

Katherine Heigl is the ex-wife who will not go away in ‘Unforgettable’

“Unforgettable” isn’t a bad movie.

Unfortunately.

A bad movie would have the courage of its conventions. It would embrace its cliches, juice up its trashy dialogue and push its far-from-gratuitous sex and violence right up to the edge.

The merely mediocre “Unforgettable,” alas, thinks it’s smarter than it is. Too uptight to get trashy, it delivers its erotic thrills, but without the brio they deserve. It’s too serious to be fun, but not serious enough to be real.

The story features plucky Rosario Dawson as a bohemian San Francisco online book editor engaged to a hunky Wall Street guy turned Malibu microbrewer. He has a cute little girl, and a gorgeous ex-wife.

A gorgeous ex-wife who regards Dawson with the same fond affection Glenn Close had for that bunny in “Fatal Attraction.”

This is very much a woman-centered picture – producers, director, screenwriter – and that’s probably a big part of why the female roles are juicy and the actresses seem to be having fun.

Geoff Stults doesn’t have much to do as the hubby (and doesn’t need to – he’s strictly a plot device). But Dawson has a couple of great scenes as the fiance on the edge of a nervous breakdown, and Katherine Heigl is clearly enjoying herself enormously as the lethally loving ex.

And while the script never mentions race at all, the great Caleb Deschanel’s cinematography adds its own subtle commentary, keeping Dawson in warm dappled shadows but lighting Heigl so sharply she seems to be not just white, but glowing.

Still, Di Novi — a first-time director who previously produced decades of terrific films, going back to “Heathers” – seems afraid to embrace the material’s inner trashiness. Even the title is sort of bland and, well, forgettable.

That’s a shame because no matter what Di Novi may like to think, this isn’t an important study of feminist struggle, or identity crises, or objectification. It’s an erotic thriller. Yet she fails to really deliver on either. The thrills are slight; the erotica not much steamier than basic cable.

It’s all pretty, and well-acted. But it fails to satisfy the way that a similar movie, 2009’s “Obsessed” did. That film, about an icy blonde stalker after Idris Elba, fully committed to its exploitation roots, and it paid off; when poor, put-upon Beyonce finally took a swing at Ali Larter, audiences cheered. Here, the climax only brings a sigh of relief.

Nicely photographed, speedily paced, “Unforgettable” is a completely average movie. But there’s a wonderful bad movie inside it, struggling to get out.

Ratings note: The film contains violence, strong language, sexual situations, brief nudity.

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