Anyone who knows me or has listened to “What Were They Thinking?” knows that I (and my co-host Nathan) have an affinity for trashy movies. Some are entertaining because they go for it with gusto and almost translate into legitimately great films like the latest installment in the Furious franchise while some don’t even know they’re bad and take themselves super seriously, thus ending up terrible but still very watchable. This film had all the potential to be a campy, over-the-top violent cult classic but only if it either took itself entirely serious or if it embraced its true potential as camp. Did it do either of those things? Let’s dive in!
The film begins with a police interrogation room where a young lady named Julia (Rosario Dawson) is faced with the fact that her abusive ex-boyfriend has been murdered and she is the prime suspect with evidence to boot. The film then shoots us back to “six months earlier” as we see Julia arriving to California to live with her fiance David (Geoff Stults) and his young daughter Lily (Isabella Kai Rice). Everything seems peachy-keen until we meet David’s ex-wife – Tessa (Katherine Heigl). Tessa is jealous, ill-tempered and so rigid in her behaviour that she immediately does not take a liking to Julia’s free-flowing way of living life without a care in the world. As the film progresses, she gets increasingly jealous and more desperate to get David back in her life by any means necessary.
I am torn with this film because what we have here is one dumb movie with committed performances (especially by its females) but yet the movie never takes off into full B-movie glory as it tries to ground itself at times in a ridiculous fashion. This is a movie that should always be going for the gusto and never be reserved. Scenes like Tessa Facebooking an abusive ex-boyfriend of Julia’s while she is pleasuring herself are perfect examples of the sort of crazy stuff that happens in these movies. I want more scenes like Tessa becoming so enraged that she rides off onto her horse and lets the anger out somehow.
The acting by Katherine Heigl is really what sells this movie. From a girl that usually does romantic comedies like 27 Dresses and The Ugly Truth, here comes a role that she can finally sink her teeth into and a character she can portray with stunningly genuine acting. Heigl is a riot here with her stern reserved craziness and the way in which she conveys her idiosyncrasies had me laughing quite a bit. Rosario Dawson’s performance is almost the opposite but not in a bad way as you would think that might imply but rather that her performance is a lot more grounded and brings the story together. She really holds everything together in terms of the dramatic aspects.
Geoff Stultz is pretty dull as the man who both women essentially fight over, which ultimately kind of hurts the overall film since we never really know what the big deal about him is other than he seems like a pretty nice guy. Cheryl Ladd plays Heigl’s mother and despite only having limited screen time, she does a very good job of coming across with her passive-aggressive behaviour, especially in a scene where she simply asks, “oh, you didn’t bake the scones?” How dare she be served store-bought drivel! Her character also gives more insight into Tessa as we see snippets of what might have led to her psychotic behaviour.
Some of the choices made by the costume designer and cinematographer are so ridiculously on-point that it’s almost laughable. Tessa is always dressed in tight-fitting white dresses with her hair straight and controlled while Julia has flowing hair and wears chic sundresses, which defines their characters pretty succintly. Other characters give us clues too. We often see some of David’s friends embracing Julia and warning her that they often had to “walk on eggshells” around Tessa when she was still in the picture.
The actual conclusion (without ruining too much) is very fitting for a movie like this and has a nice, violent capper to all of the insanity. There is a great and ridiculous fight scene that feels like the viewer is letting out all their frustrations as well because make no mistake about it – you will HATE Tessa. She’s not a fun villain or someone you “love to hate.” She is pure, unadulterated evil. This is why she is the best part of the film because Heigl plays her with such committment that you don’t ever for one second side with her on anything especially as you can start to see the seams of politeness begin to come apart.
So is it worth seeing? As a ridiculous, trashy fun movie? Sure. As an actual worthwhile film? It’s OK.
Less than * (Actively offensive to one’s intelligence)
* (Brutal; bottom-of-the-barrel)
** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)
*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)
**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)
***** (Flawless; a true achievement)