In his third feature, I Care a Lot, J Blakeson has made a faulty albeit distinct thriller with a supremely talented cast and subtle delivery of its themes.
When elderly people are unable to take care of themselves, courts appoint a legal guardian to them to assist their care after they have been put in an old age home.
I Care a Lot follows Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike), who, along with her girlfriend and assistant, Fran (Eliza Gonzalez,) sees an opportunity here and takes advantage of the loopholes to con the system. She establishes a company where they put capable people in old age homes and then sell off all their assets and belongings.
Things go sour when she picks up the scent of the wrong prey, Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Weist), a seemingly harmless, single rich old lady who has connections in the underworld.
I Care a Lot has a stellar cast. There are great performances in the film overall. All the characters, even the supporting characters, are unique.
Rosamund Pike is astounding as the cruel, inhumane and loathsome psychopath, Marla Grayson. She is ruthlessly ambitious and sees the world as prey and predators. She only singularly cares about winning and nothing else. Pike gets to showcase her range and sheer talent in the latter half of the film. She was quite simply perfect for the role of the black-hearted Marla Grayson.
Her role in the film is similar to the character of the cold, sociopathic Amy in Gone Girl (2014) but the real brilliance of her performance in I Care a Lot is illustrated by the differences in acting choices she takes in both films.
Peter Dinklage plays the gangster connect to Jennifer Peterson. He is a short-tempered man who is equally as amoral as Grayson. Dinklage’s character acts as a great foil to Pike’s character as the comparison of their villainy helps cement exactly how inhumane Pike is, even when compared to a mafia gangster.
Although the supporting actors cast do their characters justice some of them are underutilised. Damian Young as Sam Rice, the manager of the Old Age Home and Isiah Whitlock Jr. as Judge Lomax, the gullible judge presiding over all of Grayson’s cases, especially could have used more screentime.
With the character of Grayson in I Care a Lot, writer-director J Blakeson has created a formidable antihero with an extreme and intriguing outlook on life.
I Care a Lot is visually brilliant. The film starts off looking like a comedy. The visuals, set design, costume design and colour schemes were vibrant and bright. As the film progressed the lighting and colour schemes changed to create much more aesthetic frames with a darker atmosphere.
The entire third act is unpredictable and by far the most intriguing section of the film. The ending of the film is spectacular and made the faults much more tolerable. The conclusion delivers the points the film makes about the nature of capitalism and greed neatly and in a cohesive manner.
Following a reprehensible protagonist is not new to films. Nightcrawler, Taxi Driver, A Clockwork Orange and plenty of other films have tackled this genre brilliantly.
But I Care a Lot cannot unfortunately join that list because it utterly fails to dive into Marla Grayson’s character. The audience might disagree with the protagonists morally but they need to understand and empathise with the antiheroes of the story to be engaged in the film.
This is where I Care a Lot miserably fails, as her character is not explained or explored for a majority of the film. She is so purely evil and enigmatic that the audience never cares what happens to her or any other characters in the story. Only a brief glimpse into her character is given through exposition-heavy monologues and the few outstanding conversations Grayson has with the mafia gangster. Grayson’s sheer unlikeability makes it a tough task to sit through the first and the second act.
I Care a Lot is also chock-full of plot holes and conveniences. Everything seems like a cakewalk for Grayson. She virtually faces no competition and comes out unscathed and unaffected through most major events in the film. This reduces tension from the scenes.
Watching I Care a Lot is an uneasy, harrowing experience without being exceptionally graphic. The film, in a nutshell, is terrible people doing terrible things to each other.
The film would be appreciated more by the audiences who care about the deeper themes in their films and fans of Rosamund Pike after Gone Girl. All others can skip this one.
Also Read: To All The Boys 3 review: Subtly delightful