I Care a Lot – Movie Review
I Care A Lot
Directed by: J Blakeson
Written by: J Blakeson
Starring: Rosamund Pike, Eiza González, Dianne Wiest & Peter Dinklage
Cinematography: Doug Emmett
Music: Marc Canham
Release Date: February 19th 2021
The career trajectory of Rosamund Pike has been one of the most interesting to watch in recent memory. After starting her film career as a Bond Girl in ‘Die Another Day‘ before starring in a series of period dramas and playing “Damsel in Distress” roles in action films, in 2014 she was cast against-type in David Fincher’s ‘Gone Girl‘ as the sociopathic Amy Dunne; a performance that netted her widespread acclaim and an Academy Award nomination.
Now Pike is returning to depict a similarly deplorable character once again in ‘I Care a Lot‘ coming from ‘The Disappearance of Alice Creed‘ and ‘The 5th Wave‘ director J Blakeson in a release making its way to Netflix or Amazon Video depending on your region. However, while the casting and performance of Rosamund Pike has been the key selling point of ‘I Care a Lot‘, the rest of this film is able to follow her lead to create a captivating black-comedy thriller.
Marla Grayson (Pike) is a con-artist whose operation involves working with local Doctors, Nurses and Lawyers to trick the courts into giving her guardianship over elderly citizens, under the guise of them not being able to look after themselves anymore. Once this is done, she sells off their assets and drains their bank-account while the innocent elder is imprisoned in a care home. However, Marla and her partner Fran (González) end up imprisoning the wrong lady as the entirely independent and capable Jennifer Peterson (Wiest) has connections with the Russian Mafia through her son, Roman (Dinklage). With neither side willing to compromise, Marla, her entire operation and everyone she cares about are at risk as Roman promises to do everything he needs to in order to get his mother back from her.
‘I Care a Lot‘ peaks in its first half as the audience are given the detailed breakdown of exactly what Marla’s elaborate cons entail and it’s incredibly fortuitous that this movie has been made available for streaming at home because potential gasps and exclamations of horror from audience members might drown out the film’s sharp dialogue from its depraved characters. Marla’s operation is a well-oiled machine as she’s able to use the perfectly legal systems in place to steal everything from her elderly victims; not just their savings but their golden-years and last interactions with their families (who they’re forbidden to contact). The retirement home, the local medical professionals, removal teams and more are in on the con. It’s a vast and horrifying operation and to be on the receiving end of it is suitably depicted as the living-nightmare it is.
While ‘I Care a Lot’ doesn’t appear to be based on a true event or based on a prior source material, it feels like a very real horror that’s being committed to its victims. How legal/court systems that are in place to provide care to vulnerable people and those who genuinely do need assisted living, have been manipulated by those motivated by greed to get what they want. It’s hardly subtle, but ‘I Care a Lot‘ is a stinging demonstration of late-stage capitalism where something that is wholly unethical but profitable is “technically” legal with the right connections in place.
A lot of this horror-show comes from Rosamund Pike who is in familiar territory for anyone who watched her turn in ‘Gone Girl‘, though ‘I Care a Lot‘ is a lot more upfront about the character’s psychopathy (the film’s perfect, ironic title notwithstanding). With frequent narration and a methodical editing style which allows the audience to see that Marla knows full well what’s she is doing, but would rather be predator than prey in a brutal world. Pike’s unflinching expression when backed into a corner, or her sinister shark-like smile as things go her way in a court room; this is a wonderfully malevolent performance.
But despite the horrors of its premise and the irredeemable nature of both its antagonistic leads, ‘I Care a Lot‘ is thoroughly compelling due to Rosamund Pike’s performance. While it’s not the surprise that 2014’s ‘Gone Girl‘ was, ‘I Care a Lot‘ would be a lesser film without her or perhaps another actress who has been cast against-type.
Special mention does also have to be given to Dianne Wiest as the elder who Marla really shouldn’t have messed with and while Jennifer Peterson can’t match Marla in terms of calculating a plan, she is equally cruel and able to get under her skin. We also have Peter Dinklage as the Russian mafia boss who is a stock archetype of a smartly dressed don who wants to be quiet and calm but lets their temper get the better of them, but Dinklage acquits himself incredibly well and it’s an intimidating performance that elevates the material.
It’s when we get to the second half of the movie that ‘I Care a Lot‘ starts to lose its bite as the methodical tempo and intriguing first half gets replaced by a far more generic crime-thriller. We also get many extended scenes of Marla and her Partner/Girlfriend Fran and while Eiza González is giving a decent performance, it’s a thankless role and feels at odds with Marla’s established characterisation. The film’s ending also seems to cop-out of the earlier critiques of late-stage capitalism which initially used very real corruption and exploitation for profit only to give us an ending for Marla that basically never happens in our current economic system. The second half also makes the decision to not feature more of Jennifer Peterson which feels like a shame for everyone involved, mainly because it feels like the movie losing sight of what set these catastrophic events into motion.
Still, the underlying moral back-and-forth as an audience member makes ‘I Care a Lot‘ a fascinating viewing experience as we’re essentially rooting for Marla to get her comeuppance but we’re also privy to the knowledge that Roman is just as cruel and also over-sees human trafficking himself (though his “stock” is much younger when compared to Marla’s). The audience are forced to watch two titanic immoral forces of nature battle it out where everyone getting in their way is the victim/collateral damage (gee, I wonder what this has to do with capitalism?). The film is broadcasting on a similar wavelength to Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Wolf of Wall Street‘, though gender-swapped and if you couldn’t get on board with that film’s necessary romanisation of detestable people and the rewards they reap, then ‘I Care a Lot‘ might be a bit too uncomfortable also.
Visually, the film’s opening half is its strongest with strong editing and cinematographer Doug Emmett is definitely channelling his work from ‘Sorry To Bother You‘ when it comes to depicting the allure and sheen of a pristine work-place. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the direction of the second half, but it does become a less interesting crime-thriller homage and loses a lot of its character. The music also isn’t particularly memorable and while the film may draw moral parallels to films like ‘Gone Girl‘ and ‘The Wolf of Wall Street‘, they’re not nearly as visually or audibly arresting. Though, shout-out to the frequent “bisexual lighting” in the gym-sequences or scenes where Marla and Fran are together.
‘I Care a Lot‘ may not be a horror movie, but it’s still depicting horrifying events that play with audience allegiances thoughtfully with the socio-political subtlety of a sledgehammer. Its second half might devolve into more generic territory but it’s continually carried and salvaged by a stellar Rosamund Pike and Peter Dinklage pairing that leads audiences to an interesting if slightly cheap ending gambit. It’s still a worthwhile black-comedy thriller but it definitely won’t resonate with everybody and it peaks very early.
I give ‘I Care a Lot‘ 3 and a half stars out of 5.
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Posted In: 2021 Reviews Current Reviews
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Posted: 22nd Feb 21