Review: 'Careful What You Wish For' Or The Unwanted Child Of Porn and Lifetime Movies

By Kristy Puchko | Film | June 10, 2016 | Comments ()

By Kristy Puchko | Film | June 10, 2016 |


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When I heard that Nick Jonas was fronting the “steamy thriller” Careful What You Wish For, I expected the kind of campy performances and over-the-top plot of the deliciously deranged Boy Next Door. Ever-snarling, with a cigarette between his clenched teeth, Dermot Mulroney does his damndest as the devilish cuckolded husband in this twisted love triangle tale. But sadly the rest of this thriller is dramatically flat, and otherwise flat-out awful, combining the worst elements of Lifetime TV-movies and porno to make a love child that’d be better off aborted.

Jonas stars as a freshly graduated high school senior with plans of attending Columbia in the fall. But for now, it’s summer and both his doting parents and backwards-cap wearing buddy urge this shy bookworm to get a tan and some action! (“You’ve got to live a little, Dougie!”) Now, you might think the hunky Jonas is miscast as a meek geek who is often overlooked by gorgeous girls. But that’s just because our feminized society has you ignoring that most average joes are diamond-in-the-rough could-be hotties. If only you dumb broads would look up from your manicures and umbrella drinks and notice! (Somewhere Jorah Mormont is nodding while weeping sandy tears.)

Anyhow, secret hottie Doug is just minding his own business, shuffling about with shrugged shoulders and hands jammed in jort pockets, when he falls hard and helplessly for the twig-thin trophy wife next door (Isabel Lucas). His is a special brand of love. The kind that begins with spying on her as she undresses, progresses as he decides not to call the cops when she appears to be sexually assaulted by her husband. But he did kill a spider for her because he’s a nice guy. And what does being a nice guy get you? Well, in this instance repeatedly laid by the whispering woman ever-scantily clad in pristine white sundresses and bikinis. And even though it’s Doug’s first sexual relationship, he is a fucking prodigy, literally. No matter the position, lack of foreplay or amount of clothing kept on, Doug gets Lena orgasmic almost instantly every time. (“See,” the movie seems to shriek, “Women should really give nice guys a chance!”)

But you know women. They lie. (Probably not about the orgasms though. Those were totally real.) When Lena’s abrasive older hubby Elliot turns up dead, Doug’s sexy summer goes from romantic to ruh-roh. Of course he helps this flustered flower, concocting the plan that gives her an alibi while he dumps the body. The “good ol’ boy” sheriff is happy to write the death off as a boating accident. But then some rookie insurance agent lady starts playing detective. Next thing our nice guy knows, Lena is framing him for a wide array of crimes, so she can run off with the life insurance payout!

These kind of scandalous storylines are beloved by Lifetime movies. But usually they center on women, or ultimately work toward a resolution of familial preservation. This is a Lifetime premise through a porno lens. Doug’s story begins like a Penthouse letter, all “I never thought it’d happen to me, but I lost my virginity to the bikini-clad trophy wife next door.” Sadly, the sex scenes lack sizzle and are shockingly free of nudity. So those looking to leer (at Jonas or Lucas) will be let down. Likewise, the central pair reject the grandiose hysterics favored in Lifetime movies, sticking with the porn performance level of dead-eyed stares and wooden delivery of such scintillating boat-based double-entendres as “Sometimes you just got to push in.” “You got a lot of experience with that?” Or the witty exchange that accompanied their first gawky kiss: “I’m sorry, that was bad.” “Try again. But better.”

Despite the trappings of the battered wife, abusive husband, overeager boy toy next door, and a lakeside setting ripe for betrayal, intrigue and murder, Careful What You Wish For will turn off Lifetime movie fans with its blatant tone-deaf misogyny. Doug and Lena’s husband repeatedly refer to her as property, listing the latter’s assets as “The house, the Jag…the wife.” And the script’s boat metaphors includes such groan-inducing double-edged dialogue as “What do you say we tag team her?” (Get it? Elliot means the boat, but for a second Doug thinks he means Lena.) But worse than this is how the so-called thriller overdoses on red pill meninism.

When Lena shows up, she’s a vision in white. Sexy. Fragile. In need of rescuing. But beneath the polished veneer she is an MRA fantasy in that she’s a bogeywoman, hellbent on using her sexual allure to manipulate men. Over the course of the movie, Doug is the one making the decisions, initiating their first meeting, their first kiss, the murder cover-up. Or, it seems that way if you’ve never seen one of these movies before. As weak as Lucas’s acting is, the lingering close-ups of her wide-eyed but silent face telegraphs that this is all breadcrumbs leading Doug down a path of manipulation by taking advantage of men’s “fix it” nature! She’ll go on to frame this “nice guy” (who ignored her cries when she was being attacked), accusing him of stalking, rape, and murdering her husband.

Careful What You Wish For is Gone Girl gone bad.

In the latter film, the “cool girl” uber femme fatale was used to satirize MRA tenets of rampant false rape accusations and women’s supposedly supernatural abilities of male manipulation. But the former misses this criticism and instead presents an earnest tale of an evil woman so deceptive, she’s not even interested in Doug sexually! (Faked orgasms are real!) Here, the audience isn’t urged to consider the toxic demands of our culture’s gender norms, just to pity dopey Doug, whose only mistake was trusting a lying bitch to begin with. Good thing the sheriff knows Doug could never do such a thing, so he lets him run free from arrest in the final act. The sheriff, you see is a good guy, totally ignoring protocol or tons of physical evidence, because he’s known Dougie’s family for years. And I mean, Dougie doesn’t look like a rapist, so—this is about where my rage over similar comments about the Stanford rapist Brock Turner made me see red, just as Doug races to a frustrating conclusion that treats the audience with all the respect of a soiled diaper.

You might look at Rotten Tomatoes scores and see that some big studio movies are getting ripped apart by critics this week. But this one is the worst. Careful What You Wish For is obnoxious, noxious, oblivious, and offensive. And it doesn’t even deliver Jonas butt.

Kristy Puchko reviews movies more times on her podcast Popcorn & Prosecco


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