I CARE A LOT ˝
R, 118 mins.
2021, R, 118 mins.
Rosamund Pike as Marla Grayson / Peter Dinklage as Roman Lunyov / Eiza González as Fran / Dianne Wiest as Jennifer Peterson / Chris Messina as Dean Ericson / Isiah Whitlock Jr. as Judge Lomax / Macon Blair as Feldstrom / Alicia Witt as Dr. AmosWritten and directed by J Blakeson
The ultra black
comedy/satire thriller (and ironically titled) I CARE A LOT (streaming
either on Amazon Prime or Netflix, depending on your region) begs an often
asked question of me:
Can a film be
truly entertaining if it contains a cavalcade of toxically reprehensible
I would answer yes,
and this film from English director J. Blakeson (THE DISAPPEARANCE OF
ALICE CREED) is no exception.
And, man, are the characters that populate I CARE A LOT ever toxically reprehensible.
At the center of
the film is a performance of astounding dexterity by Rosamund Pike, who
plays a character so cold hearted, deceptive, and ruthlessly determined
that she'd make the role she helmed in GONE
GIRL feel relatively tame and well adjusted by comparison.
Pike oozes venomous deceitfulness playing a smooth talking con
artist that convinces vulnerable and defenseless senior citizens to leave
their homes and enter into long term care facilities, during which time
she lawfully appoints herself as their legal guardian.
While these victims waste away in these facilities, this deceitful
witch sells off all of their assets - including their homes and their
possessions - to make a quick fortune, all of which is allowed because of
her shrewd ability to convince the courts of her well meaning and peaceful
nature as a caregiver.
Not only is I
CARE A LOT a performance showpiece for Pike (a far better and more
versatile actress than she's usually given credit for), but Blakeson's
film makes for a searing take on modern day capitalism without any moral
radar whatsoever. That, and
the film also has an unexpected vibe of timeliness in the sense that it
shows elderly people suffering under the shady bureaucratic
and political weight of those that run care homes and pledge to look after
them (seeing horrendous mismanagement in these homes during our current
pandemic worldwide gives I CARE A LOT an underlining eerie vibe).
Beyond that, this caper thriller takes multiple detours and twists
that most viewers will find fiendishly unexpected.
The film does regrettably fall apart in its final sections and
doesn't quite know when to end, but it works as a savage and unexpectedly
engrossing genre effort.
aforementioned predatory crook that Pike plays with great relish and glee
is Marla, who works with her partner and lover in Fran (Eiza Gonzalez) to
hunt down and locate seniors that have no one in life, but have
accumulated wealth and a decent retirement nest egg for the pair to sink
their teeth into. The have
fine tuned this grift to meticulous levels of perfection, which involves
them politely confronting their targets as concerned caretakers and then
use their connections in the legal and medical systems to get these old
people to be committed against their wills to care homes (usually on some
dreamed up claim that they mentally or physically can't care for
themselves anymore on a daily basis).
Marla and Fran hone in their crosshairs on Jennifer (Dianne Wiest),
who's an older woman that's apparently never married nor had kids.
Most importantly, she seems affluent, which makes dollar signs
flash over Marla's head. She
manages to convince the court that Jennifer is incapable of tending to
herself, which allows for Marla and Fran to lock her up and swoop in on
her vast fortune (which includes a secret stash of diamonds).
All in all, this looks like the score to end all scores for the
There's one pesky
issue, though: It's slowly revealed
that Jennifer is by no means a saint, nor a simple minded, susceptible, or
ordinary piece of easy-to-rob prey. Jennifer
is approaching the beginning stages of dementia, yes, but is no where
close to requiring a trip to the old folk's home.
That, and Marla learns to her astonishment that Jennifer is
actually the mother of a Russian mobster, Roman (an extraordinarily well
cast Peter Dinklage), who doesn't take too kindly to his momma being
locked away or having their possessions being sold off to the highest
bidders. Soon under the
horrifying understanding that they picked the wrong target, Marla and Fran
begin to plot a way to rid themselves of this madman for good...or risk
being put six feet under if caught.
Again, the whole
premise of I CARE A LOT is bone chillingly terrifying (especially for some
of us out there - myself included - that have mothers in care homes).
The manner with which Marla is able to convince those higher up
than her in multiple professions that she's (a) a respectable woman
meaning to do well by these elderly people and (b) will only have these
peoples' best interests at heart by sending them into nursing homes is
unnerving to the core. Equally unsettling is how Marla and Fran quickly liquidate
their target's homes and priceless heirlooms, thereby draining these
people of everything they've ever owned in the world.
It's all enough to make one sick, really. And Marla is indeed a sickening creature, to be sure, and a
living monument to broken systems that are supposed to be in place to
protect those in the winter of their lives, but instead have all but
failed them because they can so easily be exploited by the wrong kind of
people. Of course, the core of the film is showing these con women
get some poetic justice being fed to them in the shocking reveal of
Jennifer's true identity and ties to organized crime, but the ruthless
head hunter in Marla seems so stone cold in her resolve to beat these
people via any means necessary that the film then becomes this enthralling
battle of wills between all parties.
Roman tries as he can to get his thugs to break his mother out of
the care home and is stymied multiple times because Marla is just that
good and prepared. Watching
this pastry addicted mafia don lose his own grip on sanity in the process
is one of the film's unexpectedly hilarious pleasures.
directorial touches are assured and inspired in the way he milks this
premise for all of its vicious value, but he also places a considerable
amount of confidence in his actors to help lead the charge, which
culminates in a few standoff sequences that are small treasure troves of
performance might. One in
particular has Chris Messina show up as Roman's lawyer who makes multiple
soft spoken, but frank threats to Marla to either stop her ruse...or pay
the immediate consequences of it "ending badly for her."
Of course, she doesn't budge an inch and counter matches his taunts
with courageous nerve. Scenes
like this really show just how utterly in command Pike is in this film:
she walks this very slippery slope of making someone as amoral and cruel
as Marla into a figure of rooting interest as the story progresses.
Thankfully, she never regresses to that point and instead fully
harnesses the uncompromising nature of this coldly calculating sociopath
that seems equal to the challenge of taking on someone as equally
villainous as Roman. And Dinklage is equally great here as well playing a
character that's just as - if not more - revolting of a human being as
Marla, but nevertheless is a deeply worried crime boss that just, deep
down, wants his mother back safely.
He's superb at modulating between Roman's slow simmering and
internalized rage and just unleashing it at any inopportune moment,
usually with his underlines' feeling the burden.
It also might prompt you to seek out your own aging mothers/fathers and give them a large hug.