FlixChatter Review: I CARE A LOT (2021)

When I first heard of this dark comedy, I was immediately intrigued by its casting of Rosamund Pike. I’ve seen her playing real-life heroines in her last two films, A Private War and Radioactive, that it’s actually quite a treat to see her playing a shamelessly devious character. Marla Grayson is a piece of work – a vision of killer beauty with her razor bob haircut and sharp pantsuits, matched only by her piercing ambition to stay on top. The VO in the beginning tells us she didn’t come from money, in fact she grew up poor and she’s determined never to be again. Her get-rich-quick-scheme involves cunning her way to be a legal guardian of elderly wards whose assets she immediately seizes to build her ‘care’ empire.

The film begins with a man who went berserk trying to visit his mother at a care facility. You can easily guess who the guy’s mother’s court-appointed legal guardian is. Marla runs her empire like a tight ship with her business/romantic partner Fran (Eiza González). Everything from knowing the legal loopholes to deceive the judge (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), meticulously researching the victims, to making sure the care facility is ‘prepared’ to receive its new guest–nothing gets by these professional schemers.

British writer/director J Blakeson creates the epitome of an evil protagonist we love to hate in Marla, but then again there are really no good guys in this film… only the bad and the tragic. As much as I despise what Marla and Fran are doing, I was also curious just how their well-oiled con game works. Well, soon they come across their latest ‘cherry’ with a rather bland name, Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest), a wealthy retired lady with a sizable nest egg plus a nice, big house to the bargain. Based on Fran’s research, she has no relative or next of kin which makes her a perfect target. Or so they thought. Someone who’s that too good to be true usually is. Little did they know their cherry has an equally dubious secret and ties to a Russian gangster Roman Lunyov (Peter Dinklage).

One of the main strengths of this film is the performances. Pike is superb as Marla Grayson. I dare say it’s a more indelible performance than Gone Girl that made her famous, as here she wasn’t over-shadowed by a famous leading man or director, able to own the role unapologetically. Clearly she relishes on portraying an icy evil queen, all poise and self-assured even when threatened. Her scenes with Dean (Chris Messina), a slick lawyer on Roman’s payroll, is quite a hoot as she simply refuse to back down. Marla is so evil you’d be inclined to side with the gangster!

The script really put all the talents to good use, even the supporting cast all brought their A-game. I’m not familiar with González, but she’s quite good here as Marla’s tomboy lover who in many ways is the voice of reason that often fall on deaf ears. Two-time Oscar winner Wiest also gets to flex her acting muscles in all her scenes with Pike, refusing to simply be a damsel in distress. Having the great Dinklage as a mobster seems like a pretty obvious choice, and he milks the role like nobody’s business. He provides a sense of menace while also being the comic relief so effortlessly. Last but not least, Macon Blair has a small role here but an important and unforgettable one.

One beef I have with this movie is some of the scenarios of the 2nd and 3rd act gets a bit too over-the-top and ludicrous for its own good. At some point my husband and I yelled ‘oh come on!!’ at the screen. It pushes way past incredulity point at times… I think grounding the film more would’ve made it more effective. The jab against profit-minded American health system is obvious here, somehow the system that’s supposed to help the weak and ailing senior citizens often capitalize on them. It made it SO easy for people like Marla to rob these poor unsuspecting souls while still staying very much within the boundary of the legal system. It’s downright sickening.

Blakeson’s script is filled with twists and turns and you’re never quite sure just who’d win in this all out war between these two nefarious pair. Naturally, many people feel that Marla ought to get her comeuppance and Blakeson toys with that very idea, only to pull the rug right from under us when we think it’s the end of the road for her. The ending made me go ‘whoa!!‘ It’s quite rare these days where a movie finale completely throw you for a loop, so I always cherish that when that happens!

So while it’s not a perfect movie, it’s one heck of a wild, thrilling ride and a stylish one. Costume designer Deborah Newhall designed the clothes to make a pronounced statement about each character and an enviable wardrobe for Pike’s character. Everything Marla wears screams ‘I’m a f*cking lioness,’ which is what she aspires to be. The dynamic score by Marc Canham is perfect for the tone of the movie and for Marla’s Type A personality, used with efficiency in her scenes at the gym, in her vigorous spinning class, etc.

Ultimately, I Care A Lot is a dynamic but also unnerving crime thriller that’s also a biting satire that celebrate sheer feminism. The emotional moments between Marla and Fran’s relationship is few and far between however, and not particularly believable. I think it’s mostly because Marla’s so driven to ‘never lose’ that it’s hard to imagine her caring about anything or anyone else. The scene involving her tooth is a prime example of how much she cares about her image. The title is appropriate here as the only thing she cares a lot is herself and winning. In an age of superhero movies, I suppose it’s refreshing to see a film about villains. I have to say this movie is not for everyone, but if you can stomach morally bankrupt characters and vile stench of a plot, it’s certainly entertaining.

Have you seen I CARE A LOT? Well, what did you think?

17 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: I CARE A LOT (2021)

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    1. Hey Steven, if you’re a fan of Rosamund this is an absolute must-see. She plays such a despicable character so well, which is a testament to her amazing versatility.

  2. I’ve never heard about this movie until your review here, sounds interesting though. I’ll put it on my to watch list. Since I’m a fan of Tarantino’s work and his films are full of despicable and morally bankrupt characters, I’m sure I’ll like this movie.

    1. Hey Ted, I hope you’ll enjoy this one once you see it. I suppose there’s some QT’s influence in Blakeson’s work and you’re right, his films are often filled with amoral characters. You’ve seen Gone Girl right? I really think Rosamund is even more evil here than in that Fincher film.

      1. Yup, I thought Pike was great in Gone Girl. I’m actually quite surprise that her career is thriving after she appeared as a Bond girl in that horrible Die Another Day film. Most Bond girls seems to either disappear from the lime lights a few years after their Bond film appearance or their career never reached a leading role status.

        1. Yeah, Die Another Day is so stupid but Rosamund is actually still memorable in it. It’s Haley Berry who I remember as being terrible. Poor Toby Stephens who’s a terrific character actor I think suffers the most, as his film career is pretty much dead after playing the villain in that.

  3. I’m certainly intrigued by this one, mainly because it’s been SO divisive. People seem to love it or absolutely hate it. Guess I’ll have to check it out. Nice review! 🙂

    1. I didn’t think this film would be so divisive, but I suppose any film about villains would have that effect. Rosamund’s character is unapologetically evil, but the plot isn’t really glorifying her evil deeds though, it’s more of a commentary of a broken system that allows people to take advantage of it in a horrible way.

  4. Great review Ruth! I haven’t put my thoughts into words yet but I wholeheartedly agree with everything you’ve said here. I never expected the movie to cause such a noise on Twitter but I guess life would be boring if we all felt the same way about every single movie 🙂

    1. Hey Allie! I generally avoid all the negativity on Twitter, there are always people who are up in arms about every single thing. I think the fact that the film centers on a female antihero, a lesbian one at that, it’s not surprising the amount of vitriol directed at it [shrug]. I’m fine if people disagree about stuff, just be civil about it.

      In any case, glad you’ve seen it and that we share similar views 🙂

  5. Great write up, Ruth. The cast are excellent – especially Pike, who plays the part so well with echoes of her character in ‘Gone Girl’ – but it became too far-fetched for me with one over-the-top scene after another.

    I’ve just published my own review – https://cinematicdelights.com/2021/02/24/review-i-care-a-lot/ – and to borrow one of my own lines, while Dinklage has flashes of greatness, his mob boss “appears to be understaffed, operating from a basic looking office and very easy to target.”

    1. Hi Claire, I watched the Q&A w/ Pike and the filmmaker on Zoom (via Film Independent) and she pointed out the stark difference between Marla and Amy Dunne of Gone Girl. I actually think she’s even more indelible in this role.

      As for the over-the-top scenes, I totally agree! I mentioned that in my review that my hubby Ivan and I were yelling ‘come on!!’ at the screen. It was simply incredulous (esp how she survived that car crash scene, wow! Dinklage is a lot of fun though, but yeah, it’s not clear just what his ‘gangster’ operation actually is.

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