Director: J Blakeson
Date: Feb. 19, 2020
R | 1 hour 59 minutes
Directed by J Blakeson, “I Care a Lot” features Rosamund Pike as Marla Grayson, a fashionably fraudulent con woman who uses her title as a court-appointed legal guardian to bilk the elderly of their homes and assets for her own profit. The result is a sickeningly enticing look into how unchecked greed can reap and exploit those we care for most.
Marla tricks the elderly for profit. And what a nasty trick it is. A corrupt doctor (Alicia Witt) selects an elderly patient who satisfies Marla’s conditions: solid financial means, not infirm just yet and possibly on the brink of dementia. A judge (Isiah Witlock Jr.) signs a court order stating this person can no longer adequately care for themselves and requires someone else to step in and help.
Marla shows up at their house with the document, explains she’s now their legal guardian and will take good care of their property and finances. A driver whisks them away to a nursing home, where the manager (Damian Young) promises they’ll be treated like royalty. Then, as the doors to the nursing home slide slowly closed, doors fly open for Marla to drain these elderly people of their every penny.
It’s on this disgustingly sturdy and steady grift that Marla stands with her sharp blonde bob, monochromatic suit and vape pen, surveying her next potential subject with steely blue eyes. Crumpled in the trash lies a picture of her latest cash cow who died unexpectedly early, discarded without an ounce of sadness or remorse.
Nothing more than an empty space on her wall of photographed clients to be filled. Nothing more than a vacant room at the nursing home to imprison her next candidate. Marla, along with her girlfriend and coworker, Fran (Eliza González), have found someone to fill that space: Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Weist). Peterson quickly proves to take up more than just her space on the wall, with her dark and hidden past threatening to swallow Marla’s masquerade whole.
The blatant cruelty of the premise is meant to make the viewer uncomfortable, and it’s effective. The swiftness and efficiency of Marla’s avaricious ravaging is appalling. But it’s so fun to watch, to tempt this line of darkness and discomfort with humor and flirtation.
“I Care a Lot” displays a protagonist driven by cold, hard ambition. In the first few lines of the film, Marla claims “playing fair is a joke invented by rich people to keep the rest of us poor.” Even here, she hides underneath the guise of “us” when she herself is busy ripping people off.
It’s difficult to break free of her parasitic grasp, to not fall into her serpentine clutches. Yet, over the course of the movie, this mantra becomes exhausted, shifting from genuine belief to denial of wrongdoing as her circumstances escalate.
And boy, do they escalate — unexpectedly and unceasingly. Tensions build and stakes rise to extreme proportions, sometimes to the point of silliness. An example of this comical absurdity is Peter Dinklage as a volatile Russian mobster with a liking for pastries. The height of his threats are dizzying, and the command of his hulking mobsters fails to generate any lasting fear. Yet, considering “I Care a Lot” is offered as a comedy/drama, this pin-sized kingpin seems like just the right mix between fearsome and funny.
However, there are also moments where the movie turns into just plain dark, like when Marla’s meddling catches up to her, sending her spiraling and clawing for vengeance and retribution. After a while, the audience is to assume Marla’s scrappiness guarantees her survivability.
Oftentimes, Marla fails to listen to her own advice. She preaches of the cruel and unforgiving, only to thrash about when she’s met with it. She spouts poisonous disdain toward the rich all the while leeching the helpless. Yet, perhaps most importantly, she fails to listen to her early considerations of Jennifer.
“Don’t get fooled by old people,” she says, gesturing toward the smiling, yet sharp elderly woman. “Even sadistic, immoral assholes get old.”
“I Care a Lot,” rated R, is available for streaming on Netflix.