I Care A Lot is the story of a court-appointed legal guardian, Marla Grayson, and her ward, Jennifer Peterson, a moderately wealthy senior with no family to care for her. Marla is a well-dressed, well-spoken predator; a self-described lioness. The infirm and elderly, her unsuspecting prey.
While the Gone Girl–esque narration in the beginning of I Care A Lot does not last throughout the film, it’s a joy to watch and listen Rosamund Pike as Marla Grayson doing what she is so good at: controlling the narrative. After winning in court against the son of one of her wards who just wants to see his mother, we see Marla commanding her office, with a wall of photos of her wards behind her. Despite her sincere-seeming court performance about how much she cares for her wards and doing what’s best for them, it’s clear that her main motivation is money. It’s also clear that the doctors and nursing home administrators she works with are in the business for the same reason.
Rosamund Pike is at her best when she’s playing devious, and Marla Grayson is all sweet, smiling, ulterior motives. When Marla’s set her sights on a new mark, Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest) she’s horrifyingly genuine seeming when speaking to the judge and to Mrs. Peterson herself. In her sunshine yellow suit, she smiles at Mrs. Peterson and tells her that she is on her side, and here to help.
Marla and her partner Fran (Eiza González) are thrilled at their new scheme; Mrs. Peterson seems to be the perfect lucrative target for them. While I Care A Lot may be a better film had writer J. Blakeson not decided to employ the “evil lesbian” trope in his film, if you can put this aside, Marla and Fran do have great chemistry together, and Pike makes an excellent villainess. Her sociopathic smile, tendency for vaping during conversation, bright blue eyes, and well-tailored suits are both aspirational and despicable.
While I Care A Lot is focused on Marla’s cunning depravity, it also shows us some of what Mrs. Peterson is going through. She’s gaslit, sedated, and completely trapped, and this alone would have made for a great thriller movie (much like 2018’s Unsane). Dianne Wiest is great as Mrs. Peterson and commands the screen, when she’s given an opportunity to. Unfortunately though, while we are given glimpses of her experience, we don’t get to see enough of this. Rather than at all focusing on the victim, I Care A Lot maintains the same laser-like focus Marla has on besting her prey. And it seems like she will indeed win, at least, until Peter Dinklage makes an appearance as Mrs. Peterson’s son, Roman.
Issues of guardianship and how this movie portrays legal guardians aside, what we have here in the beginning of I Care A Lot is a truly ridiculous and fun to watch comedic crime thriller. Without spoiling too much, to start with, there are diamonds, stolen identities, and the Russian mafia involved. I Care A Lot toes the line between comic absurdity and reality. Although much of what happens in the film is outlandish, predators like Marla Grayson are out there, preying on vulnerable populations. It’s just realistic enough to make you want to call and check in on your grandparents.
One of the best things about I Care A Lot, aside from Rosamund Pike herself, is the costuming. Chris Messina is wonderful as Dean Ericson, a snappy lawyer who sees right through Marla Grayson’s facade. The use of colorful lighting, such as excessive reds when a moment is meant to be suspenseful, is a bit heavy handed at times, but overall the lighting and set design add great little details. It’s because of this that although the story drags out a bit in the second half, it’s still an enjoyable watch.
As I Care A Lot moves forward, it loses some of the comedy that made it charming in the first half of the film. In favor of a more suspenseful second half and ending, it loses some of its believability, which is what made the first half of the film so intriguing. It would have been great to see more of the procedural side of things, and more of Chris Messina going toe-to-toe with Rosamund Pike, but instead I Care A Lot becomes a cat-and-mouse thriller. It’s pretty standard stuff at this point, and while it’s entertaining, it’s nothing special. Peter Dinklage and Dianne Weist are both great actors, but they’re not really given much to work with. Despite this, you’ll want to see I Care A Lot through to its ending, just to find out what happens and to watch Rosamund Pike do her sociopathic thing. It’s a great performance from Pike, but not a particularly memorable film overall.
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