Saturday 25 June 2022

Movie Review: I Care A Lot (2020)

A crime drama with a dark sense of humour, I Care A Lot presents a compelling premise but gets trapped in an unsavoury den of crooks.

Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike) runs a seemingly respectable guardianship business. But she is actually a cutthroat con artist, obsessed with getting rich by bilking fortunes from vulnerable elderly people. With her business partner and lover Fran (Eiza Gonzalez), Marla conspires with corrupt doctor Karen Amos (Alicia Witt) to target her next victim, the wealthy Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest). Marla obtains a court order, commits Jennifer to a care home, and takes control of all her possessions.

In Jennifer's safe deposit box, Marla finds a bag full of diamonds with no receipts. She starts to suspect the old woman is not as defenceless as she seems. Sure enough, Jennifer is the mother of Russian mob boss Roman Lunyov (Peter Dinklage). He dispatches lawyer Dean Ericson (Chris Messina) to buy-off Marla, but she senses the opportunity of a lifetime and digs in her heels, leading to an epic showdown with Roman.

Within a milieu of slick visuals and the occasional flash of acidic humour, I Care A Lot intentionally creates a dynamic with no sympathetic characters to cheer for. Writer and director J Blakeson introduces Marla as a purely despicable predator, then Roman as a cut-throat gangster, and allows them to crash into each other, two bad people engaged in warfare. From a pure morality standpoint, the best outcome is for both of them to get comprehensively trounced.

It's a risky edge to balance on. Marla's pure tenacity to never give an inch, especially to a low-life male, should be admirable, but her heartlessness reduces her to a contemptible villain. Rosamund Pike deserves plaudits for fully investing in a steely woman who, somewhere along the pathway to riches, detoured to an astounding level of narcissism. To an extent, she is let down by Blakeson's script, especially in the second half. Once Roman's goons start to demonstrate laughable ineptness, the film loses the oblique advantage earned during the sparkling build-up.

Marla turns into an action heroine to escape death and save Fran, as the narrative spirals from a battle of wits to routine action nonsense, the sense of cerebral sly ruthlessness all but lost. Very briefly, Dianne Wiest as the underestimated victim Jennifer Peterson threatens to emerge as the one person worth caring for. But the brief opportunity passes, I Care A Lot relatively unique in presenting a collection of scoundrels who may be smart, but are definitely not worth caring about.

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