'I Care a Lot' Review
February 25, 2021
Have you ever stopped to think about how we treat our elderly in America? Once they reach a certain age and things start to get more difficult, we ship them off to a glorified daycare that they never return from. It’s a process we never want to think about, as it gives us a guilty conscience. But that exact feeling of guilt and shame is something that writer/director J Blakeson wants you to confront in his new film I Care a Lot, a part social satire, part crime thriller.
“I’m not a lamb, I’m a (expletive) lioness,” says Marla Grayson as she opens the movie shunning us, the audience, for thinking we’re good people when we enable her to do so much evil. Marla is a state-appointed legal guardian who looks after elderly people that are deemed too unwell to care for themselves. Marla swoops in, ships the person to a secure retirement home, and seizes all their assets for herself. It's a lucrative occupation that is buoyed by an American public unwilling to care for their own.
I Care a Lot is as black as a black comedy can be. There is not one single nice character within this whole movie, and not one single nice deed is done. It’s two hours of theft, manipulation, and in some cases, murder.
The first half of the film dives deep into the scandalous nature of retirement care, which is treated as a crime ring. The process starts as Marla uses her doctor contact to scout patients that are both wealthy and healthy enough to be a perennial cash cow. In exchange for a monetary sum, the doctor recommends to a judge that Marla be the patient’s guardian. Marla then auctions off the patient’s belongings, using the funds to pay herself and the exorbitant retirement home fees she's negotiated under-the-table with the manager. It’s a grueling process that becomes harder to stomach as time goes on, but Blakeson doesn’t want us to look away, he wants to see what we’re complicit in.
Rosamund Pike plays Marla in a role she was born to play. Sporting a sharp blonde bob, stunning suits, and taking huge drags from the world’s largest vape pen, Pike commands the screen every second she’s on. It’s a towering performance similar to that of her Oscar-nominated role in Gone Girl. She’s certifiably crazy, extremely ambitious, and scary as hell. Pike has already been Golden Globe nominated this year for Best Performance in a Comedy, which is ironic since the only kind of laughing I did while watching this was nervous laughter.
With the second half, Blakeson takes a sharp turn away from social satire and into an increasingly wild crime thriller. Marla has taken a “golden goose” under her care, someone named Jennifer Peterson (a perfect Dianne Wiest) that has no living family and a lot of money to spend on medical fees. But, the predator quickly becomes the prey as it is discovered that Jennifer isn’t who they think she is. Turns out she’s connected to the Russian mafia, run by a sadistic Peter Dinklage.
This is the part of the movie where you will either throw your hands up in disgust or gleefully delve into the chaotic mess. The second half is inferior to the first as it trades its bite for conventional plotting. It also tests your connection with Marla as you instinctively root for her to win against the mafia, even though she clearly is the villain in the grand scheme of things. At times you wonder who is worse between the two of them. Even then, there is a lot of fun to be had watching her get out of this deadly situation. You do have to suspend some disbelief, but what movie doesn’t make you do that?
The score by Marc Canham takes a lot of inspiration from the Safdie Brothers’ Uncut Gems. Like the tonal shift of the plot, the synthesized music starts playful, but gets darker as Marla descends into the criminal underworld.
I Care a Lot is a pitch-black comedy in the similar vein of Gone Girl and Uncut Gems. It’s both a scathing satire on the retirement system in America and an entertaining crime thriller boasting a terrific performance from leading lady Rosamund Pike.