I Care A Lot
Dark comedy thriller, 1 hr 58 mins
Marla Grayson has a sweet gig conning old people for money until she bites off more than she can chew with Jennifer Peterson, who is more than what she seems.
“When Rosamund Pike shows up in a thriller with a bob sharp enough to cut a throat, you’re in for a wild ride.”
It is an ancient law of the film world that when Rosamund Pike shows up in a thriller with a bob sharp enough to cut a throat, you’re in for a wild ride. When it’s a bob such as the one showcased in J Blakeson’s witty 2020 thriller I Care a Lot which caused my mum to whisper in reverence, “But how is it so even?”, you’d better fasten your seatbelt.
Here’s the lowdown: Rosamund Pike is Marla, a typical toxic girl boss archetype right down to the tailored yellow suit and chunky white trainers; “I’m not a lamb, I’m a fucking lion,” she asserts, because apparently that is the peak of feminism. What isn’t typical is Marla’s hussle; she, with the help of frankly hypnotic girlfriend and business partner Fran (Eiza González), swindle vulnerable old people out of their money and worldly possessions by cooking up accusations of memory loss and advancing dementia with equally immoral doctors and becoming their legal state guardian. This allows Marla and co to milk these poor people for all they’re worth, all the while sticking them out of the way in a high-security home where the doors shut behind them and don’t open again.
While this sounds unimaginatively awful, honestly for the first 20 minutes of the film I, as the viewer, was on board. The film cleverly contrasts Marla’s magnetic and sleek sophistication against misogynistic, vitriol-spewing Mr. Feldstrom (Macon Blair) in one of the first scenes of the film and it’s not difficult to see who we are supposed to think of as the villain here. Feldstrom is accusing Marla of essentially kidnapping his mother, becoming more and more irate as he goes on. Throughout it all, Marla is the picture of calm, sweetly asserting that “Caring, sir, is what I do. It’s my job”. Cue applause and roses thrown.
However, it becomes abundantly clear that what Marla “cares” about is money and what she doesn’t care about is what she has to do to get it. One can’t help but compare this to the fantasy of the American Dream; the meritocractic cry of “If you work hard, you can achieve anything you set your mind to – anybody can do it!” is rightfully murdered in Blakeson’s thriller by the unfortunately truthful assertion that actually the people who “make it” are those who’ve trampled over others to get there. Marla cons the system and gets everything she wants – it’s a bleak message for the American Dream believers.
Despite communicating this desolate discourse with ease, don’t be discouraged – this film is actually super fun. Marla doesn’t get to live the dream for long – enter Jennifer Peterson, played by the indomitable Diana Wiest. How I love Diana Wiest, let me count the ways. She particularly slays here as one of Marla’s victims who is forced out of her own home into the sterile white halls of Berkshire Oaks care home while Marla and Fran descend upon her assets. Our hearts ache for this poor, obviously mentally well lady who has lost her home and her life in Marla’s “care”.
However, as she tells Marla with a smile like a shark who smells blood, Jennifer is “the worst mistake you’ll ever make”. It seems Jennifer has some very powerful friends who are not best pleased she’s been effectively kidnapped and Marla and Fran are selling off her belongings. Chris Messina’s snappy suited lawyer pays a visit to Marla, complete with a briefcase of cash in exchange for Jennifer’s freedom. Marla rebuffs him with her usual sharp-witted retorts and a few scenes later is tied to a chair with a plastic bag over her head, death staring her in the face. Death’s name here is Peter Dinklage’s hilarious Roman Lunyov – son of Jennifer Peterson and a Russian mafia boss cum mummy’s boy who doesn’t like getting angry but won’t think twice about cutting Marla’s throat to get her out of his way (if her bob doesn’t get there first).
What follows is a high-octane game of cat and mouse between Lunyov and Marla. The second act of the film does become slightly hard to believe – Marla faces down torture, mutilation and death with wisecracks and nary a hair out of place in her flawless bob. Even poor Fran being beaten nearly to death by Lunyov’s thugs doesn’t seem to deter Marla from her grand plan. However, I’ve never been someone who needs films to be down to earth and realistic – allow yourself to go along for the ride and what you have is a darkly comic tale of why you shouldn’t mess with people’s mums. One of them just might have a patisserie loving Russian mafia boss for a son and attempt to drown you. Lessons learnt.
The real lesson is that are really no winners here, only losers and that is the stark message I was left with at the close of the film. We’ve all but forgotten Mr. Feldstrom when he finally catches up to Marla, utterly devastated over the death of his mother while she was still under Marla’s guardianship. I as the viewer had happily forgotten what Marla had done to get here and was enjoying her success, her interviews, hers and Fran’s enormous matching engagement rings and Marla’s immaculately cut white suit. The ending forcefully reminds us that, despite what girl boss rhetoric preaches, you actually can’t treat people like obstacles to wealth and expect someone not to bite back. Perhaps the only winner here is Peter Dinklage’s awesome mafiosa mum and frankly, that’s all I wanted by by the end of the film.
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Reviewer & Writer
Georgia has been a Lesflicks volunteer since December 2020. She is currently an in-house paralegal with a view to specialising in film & TV law in the future. She has a particular interest in film theory, and wrote her undergraduate dissertation on how Disney reinforces their heteronormative agenda by coding Disney villains as queer. Her favourite film is the The VVitch and anything Studio Ghibli.