Written & Directed by J Blakeson
Rosamund Pike is an actress who started her career as a Bond girl (Die Another Day) and went on to awards acclaim with the pulp hit Gone Girl, but otherwise hasn’t really gotten her due as a performer, only appearing here and there and never really getting a great opportunity to showcase her skills as a leading lady. I certainly would have thought that after the success of Gone Girl that she could have become an “it” girl, but perhaps her turn there was too menacing and violent to resonate with studio execs to have her career blast off the way I think it could, and likely should, have. But with the new Netflix film I Care a Lot, Rosamund Pike is back to her devilish ways in a very meaty leading role which affords her the opportunity to dig her teeth into the role. We’ll see whether this film can help propel her up once again, or whether it’s just another under-the-radar success that doesn’t lead to widespread acclaim.
Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike), along with her partner Fran (Eiza Gonzalez), has made a career out of caring. She runs a company where she is assigned legal guardianship over the elderly who are no longer able to care for themselves. A noble calling, if Marla was noble in any way. Instead, she works with a doctor (Alicia Witt) to target these people to gain control of their assets and drain them for all the money they have while throwing them in homes to neglect them for the remainder of their lives. And now Marla and Fran think they’ve found a “cherry”, a cash cow. Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest) is elderly, but healthy, and with no connections or family whatsoever. So when Marla begins taking “care” of her, she’s counting her money in the bank. But she soon finds out that Jennifer may have more connections and past than at first glance, including connections to Roman Lunyov (Peter Dinklage), a Russian mobster.
I Care a Lot is slick and stylish, dressing Rosamund Pike to kill. Sharply dressed and styled, she is ready to make bank, and do so to a pop-electronic soundtrack/score. It’s also a film that is tensely scripted and directed, with turns and unexcepted outcomes around every corner. For all intents and purposes, this is a really well made movie, one which moves and is exciting almost from start to finish. And yet, I didn’t react very well to it. The reason? There isn’t one redeemable character in the whole movie. Marla and Fran take advantage of old people. The doctor knowingly sets her patients up. The judge, while perhaps best intentioned, doesn’t see through the ruse and sends these people off to be care for by frauds, and then you have Roman and the Russian mob characters! This whole movie is set to be Marla v. the Russian mob, so who are we supposed to be rooting for?
I get it, the anti-hero has been a Hollywood trope since the Noir classics of the 40s and 50s. A rough, down on his luck, flawed leading man trying to make it through. Perhaps I’m being too hard on the experience, and it is refreshing to see the role inhabited by a woman here. But I couldn’t get on board with rooting for Marla, as J Blakeson, the film’s writer/director, I believe wants us too. The performances are across the board pretty great. Pike as Marla is ruthlessly watchable, while Chris Messina pops up for one scorched earth scene, and Dianne Wiest is great too. Peter Dinklage is the only performance I didn’t enjoy, playing his Russian mobster up too big and over-the-top, which is saying something for a film so outrageous and intentionally silly.
There is some tacked on semblance of justice served in the end, but ultimately I spent the entire run time of the movie with nothing to root for, and therefore no stakes. This becomes a very problematic scenario for a movie that wants to be so much cooler than it actually is. It’s entertaining, and as I said very slick and stylish. The performances are engaging and entertaining, but in the end, the plot is so morally bankrupt and devoid of any real satisfaction that I couldn’t find enjoyment or enrichment from the dire state of affairs. For some, this may not be a big a road block or deal breaker, but it was too much for me to overcome in an otherwise well made and strong film. I don’t enjoy watching the world burn.