It’s awards season, somewhere, and a Rosumand Pike film about care home issues sounds like a tough watch; post her Gone Girl breakthrough, Pike has racked up a slew of worthy performances in serious-minded films, and with care homes the issue du jour in a pandemic, the heart sinks at the thought of some heartfelt, emotional drama. J Blakeson’s I Care a Lot, new on Amazon Prime in the UK and elsewhere, is anything but; it’s a compelling, trashy, increasingly delirious thriller that’s highly entertaining, even if it goes somewhat off the rails towards the end.
Marla Grayson (Pike) kicks ass financially; she’s figured out a way to make serious coin out of vulnerable elderly people ie granny farming. She does this with a wink and a smile; like I, Tonya, it’s refreshing to have a woman talk us, Wolf of Wall Street-style, through her nefarious, amoral life-style. Grayson’s operation, dependant on tame judges, corrupt doctors and oblivious family members, jumps the shark when Marla goes after a lucrative ‘cherry’ or cash-cow; the feisty Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Weist) who turns out to be related to some Russian mafia types, namely Roman Lunyon (Peter Dinklage, going full Jack Dorsey).
Marla’s been a big shark in a small pond; up against Lunyon, she’s up against a deadly adversary, but Marla is no wallflower, and brings it. I Care a Lot is a battle of wits between two monsters; the main flaw here is that pretty much all the characters are intensely dislikeable, although the early sense of threat is palpable, namely due to Chris Messina as a casually on-point lawyer. The promise is that we, like Marla, are about to see what happens when a pro-criminal is personally motivated to seek revenge; unfortunately that threat largely vanishes a conventional, improbable plot mechanics take over. The double twist-ending is no surprise, and both revelations can be seen from some way off; if you set up pro criminals in your story, they’d better be professional…
That said, any film that features a shoot-out in a retirement home has to be commended for not holding back on a dark comic tone, and I Care a Lot has lots in the way of drive, ingeniousness and energy. ‘Well, that was fun,’ concludes Marla, and I Care a Lot stands out from most awards fodder by being fun to watch, and a film that should reach a wide audience on Prime. For Pike, it’s the first film that follows through on Gone Girl’s feminine menace, and if you can handle the hot-button content (and care homes couldn’t be hotter right now), this is an amusing, sub-Hitchcockian thriller that delivers plenty of amoral thrills and a Golden Globe nomination for Pike. Who says crime doesn’t pay?