Dark. Twisted. Sexy. Wonderful.
These are my best descriptions of “I Care a Lot,” Netflix’ latest crime thriller, released on Feb. 19, 2021. Written and directed by J Blakeson, the dark-comedy centers around self-appointed lioness and court-appointed guardian, Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike). The film originally premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September, 2020.
Her eyes, her bob, her cheekbones and her drive are sharp enough to slice through skin. Marla Grayson is not your average guardian. Like a dragon, she exhales steam from her expensive looking vape; a phallic reminder of her ruthlessness.
A true con-artist, her grift of choice is convincing the legal system to grant her guardianship over the elderly that she insists cannot care for themselves. And she cares a lot . . . about their money. As their legal guardian, Marla works with a crew of nasty doctors and nurses to place these elders in nursing homes, where they are sedated and forgotten. She then sells their homes and other assets, keeping the cash for herself.
The main conflict of the film begins to unfold as Grayson swindles the wrong old lady. Mysterious and aloof, Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest) has ties to the Russian Mafia and Grayson’s wicked world is turned upside down.
While many critics have considered this movie to be heinous — which I admit it can be at times — the plot is undoubtedly brilliant. The viewer finds themselves conflicted as they follow Grayson’s story; reminding themselves that the protagonist is in fact the antagonist. When this is the case we hope that our anti-heroine has some redeeming quality; some past trauma that will help us forgive her actions. Does it come? Well, that’s up for interpretation.
Rosamund Pike, best known for her role of Amy in the 2014 film adaptation of “Gone Girl,” delivers a powerhouse performance as Marla Grayson. Pike indeed has a knack for playing sociopaths, but this performance was far from canned. Intricate and honest; vulnerable at times and coldly disgusting at others, Pike proves mastery of her craft in “I Care a Lot.”
For her role, Pike won the Golden Globe award of Best Actress in a motion picture (musical or comedy) over Maria Bokolava (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”), Kate Hudson (“Music”), Michelle Pfeiffer (“French Exit”) and Anya Taylor-Joy (“Emma”).
Perhaps all the performances are best described as bold, complex and real. Every actor in “I Care a Lot” played characters that were over-the-top, outlandish yet utterly believable.
The sequence of Marla’s face-offs with Roman Lunyov (Peter Dinklage), the hot-tempered mafioso (with great love for his mother and his pastries) were hilarious and chilling. Another great moment was Marla going head to head in the courtroom with slimy lawyer Dean Ericson (Chris Messina). Watching all of these shady characters duke it out (physically and mentally) was a treat.
The best part? Marla’s many encounters with Jennifer Peterson (Wiest), the elderly woman whom she is trying to drain of her assets. The scenes between Pike and Wiest are highly charged and dynamic, deeply investing viewers in the high-stakes drama.
Aesthetically, “I Care a Lot” is complete with a candy coating — bright pops of color keep the eye just as delighted as the mind. If the costumes by Deborah Newhall didn’t enhance the characters so well, they might as well have been characters in their own right. The contrasting images of light and dark visually illuminate the crux of the storyline.
While at times “I Care a Lot” is almost too infuriating to bear, I fully believe it is worth the full watch. I urge viewers to just appreciate the cringes, the laughs and everything in between.
An investigation into morality and fate, it asks us who we’re willing to be and what we’re willing to sacrifice in order to get what we want. But most of all, the film begs the question: do good people really exist? Marla doesn’t think so.
In this way, Blakeson crafts a karmic tale that is frustratingly beautiful and most compelling.
“I Care a Lot” is now streaming on Netflix.