Film Review: Careful What You Wish For

Unnecessary reworking of 'Body Heat,' this time featuring a very young lead who is involved with an unhappily married woman.
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Short of an unexpected twist at the end, Careful What You Wish For is predictable every step of the way. It’s also derivative, evoking yet another spin on Body Heat and of course the classic film noirs The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity.

The departure here and what drew director Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum to this somewhat reinvented old chestnut is the youth of our lead, Doug (Nick Jonas), which she hopes will make the story relevant to a new audience. Indeed, she believes its themes have special resonance to the 20-something set.

“I am only too conscious of how Millennials desire immediate gratification—jumping into adulthood quickly without always considering the consequences of their actions,” she has said. “For me, our movie is a morality tale exploring that very subject matter and depicting the true consequences of attention-grabbing, momentarily thrilling but illicit behavior. The film is a provocative, cautionary story for the upcoming generational archetype—a peer group that is suddenly faced with a far bigger stage, more attainable temptation and higher stakes than any generation that has come before.”

Really?

Set among the upper-crust summer crowd in Lake Norman, NC, the film explores the steamy (very steamy) affair between sexually unschooled and hot-to-trot 18-year-old Doug (still living with his parents) and his next-door neighbor Lena (Isabel Lucas), the seductive, unhappy wife of Elliot Harper (Dermot Mulroney) a brutish, high-powered investor who owns a lavish home, a jaguar, and fully appointed yacht. He also slaps his wife around.

No longer able to tolerate Elliot’s abusive onslaughts, Lena kills him in self-defense, or so she alleges, and reaches out to Doug to dispose of the body lying on the floor. As an incentive, Lena promises Doug they will soon be together forever. She’s also going to be $10 million richer, thanks to Elliot’s life insurance policy.

Doug is not the sharpest knife in the drawer and joins forces with her, dragging Elliot’s body out to his yacht in the middle of the night and setting the boat on fire, which leads to an explosion.

Within short order, Doug’s a suspect in Elliot’s murder and embroiled in a scandalous case. Enter sharp-eyed insurance adjuster Angie Alvarez (Kandyse McClure), who’s on to Lena and determined not to let her get away with it. Her thoughts about Doug are not clear. Towards the end there’s much that lacks clarity. Perhaps it’s the familiarity of the material, but the film feels very long and it’s easy to let your attention wander off.

Doug’s excessive innocence is especially hard to fathom: He never once questions Lena’s motivations? The casting of Lucas is equally problematic. She’s at best a few years older than Doug. The story would have had more plausibility, interest and certainly depth if she were a cougar.

Still, the actors do as well as they can. Mulroney is especially good as the bastard husband and Paul Sorvino as a down-home country sheriff is excellent.

There are some taut, atmospheric scenes and up to a point the tension builds. Like many thrillers and mysteries, the narrative falls apart in the final third. The resolution must be seamless to work.

The larger question is why the film was made at all. In light of the originals, it seems so unnecessary. Will it find a receptive audience among Millennials? That’s up for grabs.

Click here for cast and crew information.