Photo | “I Care A Lot” – Black Bear Pictures
Nice folks finish last in the spikey, stylish “I Care A Lot,” which just earned star Rosamund Pike a Golden Globe for her portrayal of a highly successful, profoundly manipulative grifter named Marla Grayson. The always magnificent Peter Dinklage stars as the one person who is as unburdened by conscience as she is, and when they square off, you won’t be able to look away. This nifty misadventure is a dark delight.
I was almost afraid to watch “I Care A Lot” because everything I heard about it emphasized how unlikeable Pike is in it, and I thought it might be a bitter, unpleasant slog. Then I watched it and I loved the movie and I even kind of liked her. So now, instead, I’m scared of what that says about me as a person. Oh, well. Can a film that is based on a heartless woman taking advantage of old people and leeching their money by being named their legal guardian also be described as a romp?
It is fun and satisfying to marvel at the ingenuity, not to mention the wardrobe, of Marla, an impeccably dressed sociopath with a blunt bob so sharp it looks dangerous. This is a perfect (and I’m sure intentional) metaphor for her character, who does, in fact, care for one person, her partner in business and life, Fran (Eiza Gonzalez). Together, they work to have Marla named the legal guardian of old people with little family and enough money to be worth taking, while the old folks are placed in nursing homes, some of which Marla owns stock in.
With the help of an, arguably, even more sinister physician (Alicia Witt) who tips them off to good marks for their scheme and aids them in having elderly patients declared incompetent by the courts. The fact the physician is also a woman just added to the perverse appeal for me. Technically, the subject matter is elder abuse, which is, of course, not entertaining, but “I Care A Lot” focuses on the chillingly effective machinery of paperwork and legal wrangling that locks in Marla’s access to people’s finances. The film is not physically gritty and the nursing home becomes just one backdrop for Dinklage and Pike to use their powers for evil.
Dianne Wiest plays a financially secure, seemingly alone woman Marla preys on before she realizes Wiest’s connections to the criminal underworld. Wiest does not have much screen time, but her performance really ties the whole film together. There is a scene where she stops acting like a little old lady and, even through the fog of overmedication, calls Marla some really inspired profanity. This scene completely brings the situation into focus and resonates throughout so much of the film that she is not even in.
“I Care A Lot” was vastly more clever, unexpected and entertaining than Pike’s high profile film “Gone Girl,” which took its twists so seriously they became unintentionally funny. The atmosphere of this film is closer to “Ocean’s Eleven,” but with worse crimes to admire. It is not slapstick or tongue in cheek, but the irredeemable villains who are fun to watch. You can judge them if you want, and they certainly deserve it, but why bother? They will be too busy mowing people down and shopping for flawlessly tailored outfits to care.
There is no overarching meaning or message on display in the sly and wicked “I Care A Lot.” It does not call for reform to the hot-button topics of nursing homes, conservatorships or any of the societal situations that are simply effective plot points in a story about two villains, portrayed by two great actors, fighting one another. The only socially relevant score it settles is the fact “a lot” is two separate words. This is not an “important” film and it gives the viewer absolutely no one to love or root for, but if your threshold for nihilism is high, you might enjoy it “a lot.”
“I Care A Lot” is currently streaming on Netflix.
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