Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Review: Careless (2008) [Reviewed By Kelsey Zukowski]

Starring: Colin Hanks, Rachel Blanchard, Fran Kranz, Tony Shalhoub
Directed By: Peter Spears
Written By: Eric Laster
Released: 2008
Grade: B

Careless reminds me of a much more comical, off beat, and tamer Blue Velvet. At least upon the basic story of the film. Both films open up on a lost, detached finger found in a suburban neighborhood, involve a love story, and a crime organization is what causes complications and a major part of the initial conflict and harm that has been done. It wouldn’t surprise me if the filmmaker used this film as inspiration. If it consciously incorporated elements of Blue Velvet in to the script, it didn’t wish to copy the film. It has a completely different film. It feels much more light, which is the opposite of Blue Velvet. It is much more about illusions, suspicions, and how things aren’t really as bad as they seem. Careless uses a bizarre circumstance to make all of this feel authentic.

Wiley (Hanks) has been working at a small independently owned book store for four years now. Aside from this and spending time with his friend, Mitch (Kranz), there is not much else to his life. Soon things become much more complex for him after finding a single human finger in his kitchen. He is completely baffled by this and doesn’t know to think of it. He doesn’t see any blood, but can only assume however it got lost from a person’s body, it must have been a violent way. Wiley suspects his neighbors, who he has reason to believe are drug dealers. He figures they must have cut it off of someone for not receiving their money on a drug deal. Wiley continues to keep the finger with him at all times.

Soon after, Wiley meets Cheryl (Blanchard), a 9 fingered girl. Wiley believes that she is the person that his found finger goes to and is sure of it when she is unconscious and he matches the two up perfectly. Every time he brings Cheryl’s finger up, she gets mad and refuses to talk about it. She finally says that it was an accident and she can’t say anything else because others are involved. Wiley struggles with this constantly, questioning her, wanting to believe Cheryl, but ultimately can’t. She later tells him that she was cooking and accidentally cut her finger off with the knife, which doesn’t match up since she said other people were involved. The suspicions and hiding things comes in between what seems like it could have been a great relationship. Wiley just can’t let this go especially when he sees Cheryl go off with the drug dealers in his building. He attempts to save Cheryl from whatever else they may try to do to her and to find out the truth once and for all.

The acting was one of the better aspects of the film. Colin Hanks does very well as he usually does as the low key, but vibrantly quirky guy. He helps keep things interesting through the film, which may have felt like it was dragging otherwise. Rachel Blanchard worked in her role as the beautiful, but clearly tortured, Cheryl. We were able to like her, but wanted to know what else was really behind the wall she put up and why she felt the need to do this. This is essentially what Wiley was going through, making us connect with him more as our leading character. Tony Shalhoub gives us perspective as Wiley’s father. He is part of why Wiley is how he is, and perhaps he isn’t the best father. He is clearly flawed, never leaving his house, drinking constantly, and never experiencing anything new. Wiley criticizes this, but it reflects upon his behavior. He is stuck at a book store that he has been working at for years and doesn’t even like. Wiley just sticks with it because it is the same and safe. It takes a detaches finger with mystery embedded in it, to motivate him to take charge of his own life and to experience or at least dream to do something different, based upon his desires rather than being a safety net. In the end, Shalhoub shows sincerity, which is clearly not the easiest thing for his character, but it is genuine. Brian Psehn of the Sarah Silverman Program is very funny as one of the police officers who come looking for the finger after Wiley loses it who just seems dumbfounded by this.

Careless although given a very out there starting point and overall story, is very simple. It is not meant to be too much more, which helps it be as low key as the characters are. This light feeling is enhanced through a very funny and witty script that alone makes the film very fun to watch. It does show us that suspicions, distrust, and assuming things about people before you get the chance to know them never lead to anything good. This was really colored through Wiley and his inability to let the unknown story behind the finger go. He essentially becomes obsessed with it. He even carries it in his pocket everywhere he goes. It consumes his every thought and he risks something good he has with a really great girl. In some ways though, this obsession was necessary. He needed to find interest in something; something to challenge him. Wiley might have found it in a very unconventional thing, but it was exciting, mind boggling, and mysterious. Now anyone would probably freak out in this position, but he almost takes admiration to the finger and at least a deep concern.

There are also themes of inability to depend on the government and justice system shown through the police. Wiley calls in the finger he found and the police don’t seem to take him very seriously. They put him on hold and then hang up on him. Than, after Wiley mistakenly loses the finger, the police come to collect it. The police are only there when they are no longer needed. Family is also dealt with here; as difficult, faulty, and seemingly undeserving they might be, loyalty to them shows more than anything. Although, Careless might have borrowed elements of the story, but it puts it in a completely different tone and has a vastly different outcome through the end of the film and an overall enjoyment of the movie by its’ quirky tone with funny dialogue and many essential themes that work as well together as the cast does.

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