Director/Screenwriter: J Blakeson
Starring: Rosamund Pike, Peter Dinklage, Eiza Gonzalez, Dianne Wiest, Chris Messina, Isiah Whitlock Jr.
Genres: Comedy, Crime, LGBT
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language throughout and some violence
Release Date: 2/19/21 (Streaming)
Runtime: 1h 58min
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%
Where to Watch: Netflix
The dark comedy I Care A Lot from writer-director J Blakeson is based in reality, and points viewers to the sad fact that people are often taking advantage of elderly individuals with no real heirs, by posing as their legal guardians. Blakeson’s film certainly takes things to the extreme, and is a pitch-black comedy with no truly likable characters. There’s no “save the cat” type of moment with the main characters; there’s no reason to root for her to succeed, so when things go wrong for her – as they tend to do for the main character(s) of any movie — you don’t feel bad for her. But, that’s clearly Blakeson’s point. In these types of situations, everyone is bad.
Now that I’ve seen I Care A Lot, I can understand why star Rosamund Pike won Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical over presumed favorite Maka Bakalova (who is deserving); Pike is deliciously villainous in a role that is very similar to her Oscar-nominated work in Gone Girl. Not only the British actor’s American accent flawless, but she fits the entire role to a T. It’s a wonder why she has gone this long without another juicy role (she’s just about as good here as she was in Gone Girl, but she missed out on an Oscar nomination). Pike plays Marla, a woman who has mastered the art of scamming her [often rich] elderly clients in order to make money. While we never know Marla’s true motivation for doing this, we get hints throughout, although my guess is that it’s really about money and power for her.
Marla is abetted by her girlfriend, played by Eiza Gonzalez, who’s just about as devious as her. It’s impressive how the primary romantic relationship is this story is queer, but there’s never a big deal made about it; it’s just there, just as you’d see from a heterosexual couple. Blakeson clearly knows how to write queer characters, and this aspect of the story is never heavy-handed nor too absent. This is a prime example of when straight actors can play a queer couple in an authentic, believable manner (I see you, The Prom).
The rest of the cast is quite solid, too, most notably Peter Dinklage in his first major post-Game of Thrones role. How wonderful, too, to see him in a role that has nothing to do with his height; he’s there simply he’s the right fit for the role, and he’s clearly having a very good time. The character is more serious and angry than his Tyrion Lannister, but it’s still funny at times. I wish that perhaps he was at least given some redeeming qualities; he, like Marla, is pretty unlikable, and they’re actually both the villains. When they’re at odds, I’m unsure who I should root for and who I should want to fail. The only one who seems (at first) to be somewhat decent is Dianne Wiest’s character, who is linked to Dinklage’s shady character in a way that is somewhat predictable until it’s not. Wiest is given a few fun lines, but I wish she was given even more to do. Other supporting cast members included Chris Messina (perfectly hilarious), Isiah Whitlock Jr., and Alicia Witt. But, still, it’s Pike who commands every scene she’s in.
The script takes some weird narrative turns in the third act, and I wasn’t sure whether I totally bought where it went. That’s related to my inability to empathize with anyone, although, again, that’s not what this movie is about. The ending — the last few minutes, to be precise — is actually quite great, and the final scene is probably the most fitting way to end Marla’s story, as divisive as I could see it being. I can also see how it’d be easy to mistake I Care A Lot as praising capitalism, when in fact it is critiquing it. It’s a satire that goes to extreme lengths to make its point, and is highly entertaining.