After its Netflix release on Feb. 19, I Care a Lot climbed to the top spot on the streaming service’s most-watched list and has remained in the top ten ever since. The dark comedy boasts a rockstar cast and confronts heavy topics, but is it worth the hype?
Rosamund Pike stars as Marla Grayson, a businesswoman/con artist who makes her money as the legal guardian of senior citizens who she claims can no longer take care of themselves. Marla and a network of co-conspirators take advantage of a faulty system to scam the elderly out of their assets and strip them of their agency, while the audience looks on in horror as she gets away with it. Marla’s actions on their own are disturbing, but Pike takes the evil to the next level, earning a Golden Globe for the role.
Marla is a caricature of the #girlboss, who sees her unwavering commitment to achieving wealth as an act of feminism. She criticizes men for their abuses of power, a hypocritical belief, as her livelihood is built on exploiting the vulnerable. She is an embodiment of the worst aspects of capitalism, viewing the world through an eat-or-be-eaten lens. And she wants to eat.
We watch as she targets a retiree named Jennifer (Dianne Wiest) and ruins her life step by step, forcing her out of her beautiful home, placing her in a care facility and auctioning off everything she owns. But this time, Marla picked on the wrong old lady. We find out Jennifer’s son Roman (Peter Dinklage) is a Russian mafia boss, and he’s not happy his beloved mother has been made a ward of the state. Dinklage’s character brings humor to the film, munching on éclairs and sipping on smoothies from his luxury office building as he plots to take down Marla.
The first half of the movie had me hooked, and by the time Roman was introduced, I was at the edge of my seat. I wanted nothing more than to see Marla taken down, but then the film launched into 50 minutes of back and forth action between Marla and Roman. Unfortunately, the remainder of the film did not live up to the first half’s potential. The beginning set up an interesting and creative premise for the actors to execute, but it seemed to lose focus in the second act as it descended into violence and chaos. By the time the film found some sense of clarity in the end, the drawn-out, unnecessary action scenes had already watered down the emotional impact.
Jennifer was notably absent from much of the film’s second half, which was a letdown. Dianne Wiest’s character was not only well-acted but she also represented one of the only characters in the movie who wasn’t a terrible person. The film’s best moments are the conversations between Marla and Jennifer, particularly when Marla confronts a heavily sedated Jennifer at the nursing home. The tension in this scene is electric — the second half of the movie could have used a pinch of that energy.
Still, I Care a Lot was entertaining in a shockingly disturbing way that I think is hard to provide, especially for a modern audience so desensitized by horror. As far as Pike’s acting roles go, her performance in Gone Girl still tops my list. But despite its many imperfections, I Care a Lot was still an engaging and thought-provoking film.
*Article thumbnail courtesy of Netflix.