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I Care a Lot

***
2020

‘…a compelling, trashy, increasingly delirious thriller that’s highly entertaining, even if it goes somewhat off the rails towards the end…’

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?

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  1. I must say, I saw potential in this film. But Dinklage’s character has to be one of the worst mob bosses of all time. Just felt like lazy writing how incompetent he was (seriously, his hitman uses his personal vehicle to try to rescue his mom, and it gets easily traced back to him).

    • Spoilers; After such a great build up too; his flimsy North by Northwest number completely negates all the dread the the film did a great job of working up. He’s meant to be so deadly, but leaves her in a car and drives it into the river and never even checks if she escapes? Pants.

      • I fail to see how that was more effective than using a gun ,,, he completely broke my suspension of disbelief. I don’t believe his character could successfully rob a 7/11, let alone survive in the Russian mob for decades and construct a complex secret identity.

        • You’re so right; the first half of this movie, I though was great in that she was a monster, but was falling into the clutches of a bigger, badder monster; exciting, right? But once you realise that he’s a villian by numbers, all talk, pitiful action, all the air goes out fo the balloon. He’s such an imbecile, it’s no great surprise that she makes a game of it…The film is front-loaded with promise, but ends up silly….

  2. I just saw my first trailer for this little thing while skimming my wrestling shows on Hulu. I didn’t even see Dinklage in the promo, and it looked utterly uninteresting. Hmmm.

    • I’m not sure that trailer really nails what the film is like; it’s more like a wrestling match than you might imagine. The shootout is the best bit, and it’s not in the trailer!

  3. Does sound like a great premise, making something interesting out of depressing material.. But I guess it didn’t realize all of its potential. Have to admit I haven’t been sold on what I’ve seen of Pike so far.

    • She speaks really highly of you, you should give her another chance. She’s really great in this, I’d give her a four star review, but there’s some hokey moments that water down the effect of her performance towards the end.

        • He’s played that part a bit too often, but they’re a good match. But one you introduce a serious crime boss, we really expect a real edge, and his character ends up a bit too ineffective for my liking….but you’ll enjoy it when it comes to your local library…

            • It’s a bit random, I guess they crave exclusivity, but frustrating because some of their films are worth owning; they send blu-rays out for most of their awards stuff, so it’s not like they don’t have a glass master….

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