Written and directed by Jonathan Blakeson, I Care A Lot follows Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike), an unethical legal guardian who exploits the elderly for profit. Marla’s luck changes, however, when she tries to scam Jennifer Peterson, a woman with dangerous ties.
The acting in this movie is outstanding. As Marla, Pike is vicious and at times frightening. Her confidence and cruel wit make for an undeniably awful character who demands your attention. When she is not on screen, which happens more often than it should, her presence is sorely missed.
Dianne Wiest’s performance as Jennifer also stands out, equally powerful but in a different way. Vulnerable but never weak, her performance is layered, and gives depth to the film. It would have been easy to portray a fragile old lady in need of a rescuer, thereby undermining the battle her character faces in asserting her autonomy. Instead, West’s spark never fades. While the elder abuse in I Care A Lot is hard to watch, it is made more bearable by Jennifer’s determination to fight Marla’s relentless cruelty, both physically and mentally.
Most notably, the film carries a cynicism fitting of the current state of capitalism. From social media accounts dedicated to humanising corporations to companies taking over Pride, it is no secret that capitalism has found the perfect shield for its relentless pursuit of profit.
Marla embodies this exploitation of social causes—in her case, feminism—for personal greed. In her view of the world, a woman is justified in using the system to take advantage of the vulnerable, with the sexism she faces on multiple occasions serving to excuse her horrific actions. While discussing how she has kidnapped a woman and sold all her belongings against her will, she proudly corrects a man over his assumption that the doctor she works with is a “he”.
Yet the reason why I Care A Lot works is that her perspective and the filmmakers’ are clearly distinguishable. Though Blakeson’s directing is admirably stylish and successful, rarely is Marla painted in a forgiving light. Her manipulations are hidden to the characters on screen, but on full display for the viewer. Her struggles are pure entertainment, culminating in the ultimate demonstration of this through the film’s immensely cathartic ending.
In addition to the thematic connections to capitalism, the film shines a light on the problem of elder abuse. This, however, is where one of the its weaknesses lies. For so much of the movie’s third act we are asked to root for Marla, even though her actions have already made this impossible. Her tearful reunion with her partner Fran (Eiza González), for instance, does not land. This is not due to the performances, but simply to the fact that they are both irredeemable, insufferable people. Delving deeper into Marla’s philosophy, besides the superficial predator-prey approach to human relationships, might have worked better in making her a more layered protagonist.
Yet while it could easily be misconstrued as such, the movie never glorifies Marla. It never misses a beat in highlighting her hypocrisy and greed, hidden behind the #Girlboss façade. If only the unethical behaviour of her real-life counterparts was just as easy to spot.
Relentlessly entertaining and viciously cynical, I Care A Lot is a rewarding watch that will keep the viewer engaged until the cathartic end.
Words By Elisabetta Pulcini
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