SCREENED AT THE 2007 CINEVEGAS FILM FESTIVAL: Peter Spears’ Careless is a three movie-in-one experience with the one never developing a dominant presence. There’s the slacker tale of a dreamer obsessed with mystery novels, the meet-cute romance of a girl missing something that a boy can give her and a schemer’s enterprise not revealed until towards the end that is more interesting than anything that comes before it. Here’s a film that wants to be like Martin Scorsese’s After Hours but doesn’t have the manic authenticity to award comparison, dreams itself like Woody Allen’s Play It Again, Sam but doesn’t stick with it enough to earn a Junior G-Man badge and shambles around the more amusing portions until we’ve long stopped caring.Wiley Roth (Colin Hanks) works in a bookstore specializing in mystery novels. Even without the Sherlockian dome that’s part of his store uniform, Wiley fancies himself the occasional sleuth who likes to put together mundane whodunits like the motivations of his rude, musclebound neighbors. Of course, anyone who discovers a severed finger on the floor of his kitchen is bound to want to make a few inquiries. His best friend, Mitch (Fran Kranz), runs through a few scenarios involving loan sharks and his father (Tony Shalhoub), a perpetual indoor man is even less help when they seek out psychic assistance.
By cosmic chance, Wiley comes across a beautiful, but quiet woman named Cheryl (Rachel Blanchard) at a party one evening. Before facing an awkward handshake from a George Carlin routine, Wiley notices the bandage and may have found a match both literally and figuratively. How do you tell the potential girl of your dreams that you may have a bead on that finger she lost? Well, I’d think that’d be pretty easy if you tell her up front. Maybe a little embarrassment sets in, but then it’d be happiness all around in a skin graft version of Cinderella. Better to get that out of the way before it continues to rot and you misplace it.
I don’t know what it is with missing limbs leading to encounters with mysteriously gorgeous women. An ear introduced Kyle McLachlan to Isabella Rossellini and now a finger gets you Rachel Blanchard. Lord knows what a big toe nets you, but I’m on the hunt as we speak. To venture out on such a journey would naturally be a foolish enterprise and likely not net the results that a movie can feature – and I certainly don’t want to see the movie based on my search which is what Careless feels like. Boy finds finger. Boy finds girl. Boy loses finger and doesn’t know how to tell girl. That’s pretty much it. The script never approaches a darker sensibility to explore more dangerous territory a la an After Hours or even John Landis’ Into the Night. Blanchard is cute and sweet. Hanks is insecure and aloof. Shalhoub is indifferent but caring. Without an implied menace, Careless is nothing but a flat romantic comedy with barely an edge on the nail of its finger to hint at even the most illogical of complications to come.Mel Brooks once said “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die.” Inspired words from a man who knew how to make people laugh with a certain discomfort. I chuckled at the occasional non-sequitur (“Kojak was a dick”) but grew impatient waiting for Careless to make something of Wiley’s pulpy brain farts or surprise us with some random act of violence. Beavis and Butthead got more mileage out of a severed finger in the last third of their Woodshop episode than the characters’ imaginations can spin here. Careless already had the finger. It just desperately needed to find a manhole cover ajar.