Marla Grayson (as played by Rosamund Pike) is a vampire. Not a literal one, as found in books or movies, but a modern-day one that enjoys nothing more than stripping the savings off old age pensioners. By convincing the courts that her targets are unable to care for themselves, she is duly granted total guardianship over their lives. This allows her to move them out of their houses, fence them off in barricaded care homes whilst she sells off everything they own in the meantime. It’s a sweet ride. Or at least it was until she encounters Dianne Wiest‘s, Jennifer Peterson.
Described as a cast-iron “cherry” ripe for the plucking, Jennifer has no living relatives to get in the way and a sizeable fortune that Marla can legally whittle down. Sweet. Except there’s somebody on the outside who cares for Jennifer very much and Marla will be soon facing the fight of her avaricious life…
Writer/director J Blakeson‘s I Care A Lot is without question an eye-catching addition to Netflix’s movie slate for 2021. Shamelessly trading on the unrepentant charms of an outstanding Rosamund Pike in full scenery-chewing mode, her Marla Grayson is as unapologetic as they come. Unconcerned about the misery she inflicts or the morality that she manipulates to wallpaper her existence, she’s a veritable diamond of role and you can see why Rosamund Pike is relishing every second.
Sporting a blonde Darth Vader hair-do and aided by Eiza González as her girlfriend Fran, there’s nothing these two won’t do, except back down. However, they haven’t counted on the (at-first) genteel charms of Dianne Wiest as Jennifer Peterson. Living pretty much a perfect silver surfer lifestyle, she isn’t any kind of doddering coffin dodger and when the enormity of Marla’s miscalculation hits, Dianne Wiest deliciously gives it to her with both barrels.
In refusing to go quietly, you might think that I Care A Lot is now paved with the obvious intentions of a care-home stand-off, where One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest might meet finger-wagging hilarity -but it’s not. In fact, in aiming for multiple targets, the like of which you would normally associate with a Martin McDonagh movie, I Care A Lot sadly starts to drift from its initially outrageous premise.
Having started out with terrifying real-life, legal abuse that should rightly have you concerned for your later years ahead, J Blakeson‘s script instead reduces this inciting legal loophole into a pallid pretext for Rosamund Pike and (the ever-dependable) Peter Dinklage to square-off against one another. So sadly, having a built-up such a hideously unrepentant character, the second and third acts will have you instead second-guessing the film’s overall outcome. And if your story’s heroine also happens to be an unlikeable anti-hero, that’s shaky ground right there.
Don’t get me wrong, as Rosamund Pike leans Miami Vice-like against any number of walls and increasingly removes her sunglasses “David-Caruso-style” at the end of every sentence, there’s still much dark humour to be had – but it’s a sharp, sharp fall away from an opening act which teased such depth for the chapters beyond. Becoming increasingly campy and absurd by its end, the cat comes fully out of the bag with an ending that clearly owes much more to Matthew Vaughn‘s Layer Cake than just its opening scene.
In attempting to switch from outrageous drama to comedy-drama and then back again, I can’t really help but feel you’d be better served by Nicole Kidman’s acidic turn in To Die For. Yes, for a properly dark examination of America’s naked ambition, that would definitely be my jagged hook to go for, but in the meantime, if you want a more Promising Young Woman, then Carey Mulligan’s Oscar nomination-in-waiting will have you better covered than this.
Seriously. I Care A Lot – and believe me, I wanted to.