Crooked legal guardian Marla (Rosamund Pike) makes a modest living out of scamming the wards under her legal protection. However, when a massive cash opportunity in the form of the aging Jennifer (Dianne Wiest) turns out to be more than she first appears, Marla will have to contend with dangerous people connected to Jennifer just to survive.
I Care a Lot doesn’t pull any punches from the start. You jump straight into an opening sequence with State of Massachusetts legal guardian Marla explaining how she scams the elderly out of their money. Her operation, with doctor and aged-care home owner accomplices, is a well-oiled machine. It runs, precision-perfect, to effectively imprison the elderly and isolate them from friends and family, leaving Marla to divvy up their assets. The slickness and capitalist-moralizing monologue smacks of Wolf of Wall Street, complete with anti-hero con-person that we’re unsure whether to love or hate.
However, I Care a Lot doesn’t continue in this vein, pivoting into a crime drama caper. We lose some of our inability to look away from the wrongness from there, and the film takes numerous twists and turns afterwards trying to find its tone. That’s the problem with I Care a Lot; it smacks of a film that doesn’t know itself. It has a central character, and a vibe, but outside of that it’s uncertain as to where to go next.
J Blakeson writes I Care a Lot as a warning against the evils of capitalism. However, the film cannot find its niche within this parable. It’s no black comedy like JoJo Rabbit; it’s not an unrelenting dark capitalist drama like Joker. It fails to find a consistent tone across the narrative, which flattens the pastiche and leaves the crime moments lacking weight.
Even it’s opening segment, setting up the film’s tone, feels overwritten and unoriginal, delivering clichés about predators and prey we’ve all heard before. I Care a Lot does well to build suspense and keep you guessing with every new twist. However, this too isn’t executed perfectly. The ending is nearly great but can’t resist one last twist that leaves the viewer short-changed.
J Blakeson’s does his best to give I Care a Lot a slick look. However, the the film’s directing doesn’t leave a lot to be commented on. It seems that Blakeson aims for a minimalist directing style to give his story the power to stand alone. However, one notable oddity is his use of blue and red lighting. It gives many scenes a porn-y vibe that stands out distinctly, but for no reason other than to stand out.
Rosamund Pike has been praised for her performance as the chilling Marla, gaining a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress. While on the surface casting her as a calculating hustler seems to fits with other ‘cold’ characters she has been cast as in the past, in my opinion she fails to give us any trait to empathy with. Yes, it’s meant to be hard to like Marla; but she plays her character at such a distance from any vulnerability that it smacks of inauthenticity.
There are similar tonal problems with Peter Dinklage. We also fail to see any real vulnerability from his character, leaving us with a bland, two-dimensional bad guys with uninspired dialogue. Dianne Wiest offers a bit more as the canny Jennifer, but it’s not enough to rescue I Care a Lot from forgettable acting.
The intrigue that comes from guessing what will happen next doesn’t make up for the patchy plot and off-tone acting. I Care a Lot is a scary indictment of the abuse of the elderly that has been seemingly profit-ised in the US but it doesn’t build on this truth to deliver a film of any real power.
I Care a Lot bombards you with constant twists and turns. It’s exhilarating and unpredictable, but also suffers from basic plot issues that leave you ultimately unsatisfied. 6/10.