Review: 'I Care a Lot' is a Mashup of Genres with a Gratifying Finale
by Zofia Wijaszka
February 23, 2021
When we think of "elders", we usually think of our grandparents or grand-uncles, or even that nice lady who works in a grocery store and always talks to you and asks you about your life whenever you stop by. This is normal. However, shady legal guardian Marla Grayson in I Care a Lot, filmmaker J Blakeson's latest film (after The Disappearance of Alice Creed and The 5th Wave), only thinks of them as a constant flood of cash. Blakeson's dark comedy thriller is a chaotic mix of genres, a crazy rollercoaster ride, and it certainly saves itself with a stellar cast and a storyline that is interesting enough to keep us invested right up until the end.
Marla Grayson, played by Rosamund Pike, likes to say that she cares a lot. And in the true meaning of this sentence, the woman does care, just not about what people think. As their legal guardian, older people are puppets in her hands as the woman puts them in care homes and takes charge of their assets and finances. That means all of it: houses, bank accounts, safes, jewelry, etc. With the help of her girlfriend and a business partner, Fran (Eiza González), Marla locates ideal elderly individuals that usually don't have family or anybody that would miss them. One of these people is Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest). Marla's shady physician, Dr. Amos (Alicia Witt), calls her a "cherry" - a very good financial opportunity. But soon after, it turns out that Marla might wish she never crossed paths with her as a Russian mobster, Roman Lunyov (Peter Dinklage), threatens her life and demands she free Jennifer before he hurts someone close to her.
What makes I Care a Lot an enjoyable watch is, without a doubt, its dazzling cast. Pike playing a merciless, money-obsessed, fearless woman, is a character we really hate throughout the entire film. There's no time I didn't wish her ill – really. Her Marla is calculated and cold. The only sliver of warm feelings she has, the woman offers to Fran, her girlfriend (fiancée? wife?). She despises rich people and their notion that one has to work hard to achieve success. We observe her throughout the film and have nothing but negative feelings towards her. However, said rage only drives us, and we become invested in the story. J Blakeson does something interesting with Marla's character. The writer & director of I Care a Lot creates this villain, this anti-hero, and we are, in effect, cheering on the Russian gangster and his elder mother and not her. It's hard to make a movie where we don't want to give up watching if we despise the key character. There are, of course, exceptions; for example, Geoffrey from "Game of Thrones". Marla, too, falls into that category.
González as the geeky Fran is truly charming; I wish she would've been a more standalone, more important character in Blakeson's vision. Dinklage, on the other hand, in the role of a Roman, works great as Marla's adversary. While the film focuses primarily on this duo, it fails to deepen the storyline between Jennifer Peterson and Dean Ericson (Chris Messina). We want this nice, innocent lady to finally catch a break and Ericson to take down Marla. But Marla is utterly and thoroughly unmoved by his presence.
In I Care A Lot, Pike's character is a proud lesbian feminist, a powerful figure. She makes it clear – no man will stand in her way, even if said man is a Russian mobster. There is a point in the film where we are rather impressed by her fierceness and fearlessness. In a similar situation, most of us would scream and cry. Marla, however, does not care. She's that blinded by the want for money. Feminism is an interesting part of her depiction. This is where the film will certainly provoke a discussion and possibly divide the audience. Marla calls herself a feminist, but it is clear that the anti-heroine covers her attitude by it and justifies her actions in the name of fighting men who stand in her way.
It's unsure where they wanted to go with this. On one hand, the film touches on a rather controversial subject of legal guardians and their abuse, which is a very real and scary issue in our contemporary society. In the story, the main character just so happens to be this money-hungry gay woman. In this case, I would partially agree that it's better to see LGBTQ+ characters in every role, not only where their sexuality is the main premise – and it’s not, in Marla’s case. On the other hand, Pike's character keeps repeating how no man can beat her, and she will win no matter what. It's very likely that the director intended to showcase toxic white feminism. Marla glorifies herself one hundred percent of the time and thinks of others as sub-par. She believes that she deserves to be rich, leading to the rather satisfying finale where the story comes to a full circle and points out that we get exactly what we truly deserve.
I Care A Lot is a mixed bag of genres. The beginning is rather violent and hard to watch. As pointed out already, it touches on and provokes conversation regarding legal guardianship and its widespread abuse of elders for money and power. We struggle to keep our eyes on the screen to see how the care home and Marla treat Wiest's Jennifer. The tone, however, changes when Lunyov enters the narrative. The film suddenly becomes a dark comedy and a thriller where we observe bloody skirmishes between Roman and Marla.
Ultimately, we want these people to get what they deserve, along with freeing an innocent lady from the confines of a nursing home. The film certainly is not meant to be taken seriously. With a heavy beginning and rather satisfying end, we get to enjoy two greedy criminals fighting for life because their want for money is robust. The premise of the film isn't something new. It again offers an important of lesson – some bad people will stay bad and, one way or another, every one of us will get what we deserve. However, it doesn’t always need to be new. With its cast, twist and turns, I Care a Lot is a bloody fun time, just not for everyone.
Zofia's Rating: 3.5 out of 5
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