Director: J Blakeson
Cast: Rosamund Pike, Eiza González, Dianne Wiest, Peter Dinklage, Chris Messina
Genre: Thriller, dark comedy
‘I Care A Lot’ is a new film on Netflix starring the fierce Rosamund Pike (of Gone Girl fame). Although released in limited theatres in 2020, it is getting more attention now after releasing widely on Netflix on January 19th.
Rosamund Pike plays the terrifying and tough-as-nails Marla, a legal guardian who preys on vulnerable elderly folks. What she basically does is get a legal order to house rich old people in care homes on the terms of a falsely diagnosed disease, while getting her hands on all their money. Marla is smart and resourceful. She is calculated and she makes it clear from the beginning that she is in it for the money (“being poor didn’t work with me”). She has friends and connections who are happy to get their hands dirty for her, including her professional (and personal) partner Fran (Eiza Gozalez), the immoral doctor Karen (Alicia Witt), and the care home manager Sam.
It is established from the beginning that she is a flawed character, an anti-heroine, who ignores morals and ethics when she needs to. But she is also strong and isn’t afraid of death. We admire her for refusing to give up her ward (Dianne Wiest) when she gets death threats from a dubious lawyer (Chris Messina). Later, she stands up to a mob of gangsters and exchanges wicked banter with the boss (Peter Dinklage) and later gets in a cat-and-mouse chase. We can’t help but watch her in awe. It is never clear whether she is recklessly stupid, or she knows what she is doing.
The twist and turns the plot takes is commendable and I was surprised to see it go in places where I didn’t expect. When gangsters show up, I wasn’t sure if this was the same film as advertised. But it also makes it easier for the audience to take Marla’s side because the opponents she faces are far more merciless and dangerous. Rosamund Pike is intimidating as ever, reminding us of how much we’ve missed her onscreen since 2014’s ‘Gone Girl’. She can impressively play strong and scheming women with a streak of vileness but without losing our respect, which is a fresh take in a medium where unlikable female characters aren’t allowed to win. The synth score by Marc Canham is unsettling and gives a feeling of disassociation, not very different from the score in 2019’s ‘Uncut Gems’.
Despite the serious acting and the heavy mob crime atmosphere with characters dropping dead here and there, it is clear half way through that the film is not to be taken too seriously. ‘I Care A Lot’ is a campy, dark comedy with some clunky and cheesy dialogue. The heated argument between Marla and her ward’s son early in the movie is cringey when Marla assumes the man is suing her because she is a woman and he sees her as less than. It’s uncharacteristic of the otherwise sharp Marla. Men have a long way to go when writing dialogues for feminist characters. It is impressive to see screenwriter and director J Blakeson try his hand at writing sharp dialogues and one-liners, even though not all of them land emotionally. Look out for the scene with Marla and lawyer Dean Ericson, their heated exchange is entertaining to say the least.
Peter Dinklage is funny and scary as mob boss Roman Lunyov, often at the same time. One wishes there was more of Dianne Wiest in the film, especially because of how it was marketed in the trailer. Often, the film slips into B-movie territory, but it is entertaining throughout. In its depiction of ruthless business, money chasing and murder, it is reminiscent of Netflix’s ‘The White Tiger’. The ending is ambiguous in its open endedness. We can only guess what’s going to happen, but the theme of karma hits home and gives the film more substance which was initially missing. Those interested may watch it on a nice lazy evening.