J Blakeson (The 5th Wave, The Disappearance of Alice Creed) must have written the script of his Netflix-bound thriller with Rosamund Pike, specifically her portrayal of Gone Girl‘s Amy Dunne, in mind. The protagonist (or maybe anti-protagonist) in I Care a Lot is a cunningly cool, manipulative woman whose words can twist the truth —blurring the lines between fact and fiction almost effortlessly. Here are the keywords: she is a human-prison. If anyone should portray such a character, Pike will always be the frontrunner; and she’s the one with the role.
Related Post: Review: Gone Girl (2014)
I Care a Lot boasts its morally ambiguous and provoking narrative as a commentary to the edging capitalism. Greed rears its ugly head in the form of Marla Grayson (Pike), a con-artist with god-tier persuasion skills —no explanation and no demonstration, but it’s seemingly that she’s a pro. Working with partner-in-crime-cum-lover, Fran (Eiza González), she scams the hapless and helpless elderly by making her their legal guardian before legally robbing their possessions. She’s built carefully trusted networks involving a doctor, nursing home officials, all the way to the legal officials. Marla’s friendly and assuring nature complemented by her vicious wit makes a passive-aggressive combo to ruthlessly prey on her victims.
Marla’s nasty business must come into an immense test when she attempts to scam Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest). Unbeknownst to her and her accomplices, Mrs. Peterson is secretly and vaguely related to a Russian crime-lord, Roman Lunyov (Peter Dinklage). This is where the story supposedly turns into something darker and more wicked. It’s enticing to observe that Dinklage also has the penchant for a cunning, manipulative character who usually is eager to trade off his vulnerability into a bargain. The showdown of wit is inarguably the cherry on top of the film’s unrelenting premise involving a helluva ensemble of casts (which has already enlisted Macon Blair, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and Chris Messina to name a few). And yet, aside from the mounting presence of both leads, I Care a Lot goes ballistic in all the wrong ways —even when it hides under the pretense of subversiveness.
Related Post: Review: Baby Driver (2017)
Blakeson seems to be focusing more on harvesting Pike‘s Machiavellian persona before building the world surrounding her. Dinklage is then unleashed to add a reflective perception; but, instead, he’s unraveled a refractory vision because his charm is criminally underused (at least until the film’s final minutes). I Care a Lot sets to make Marla the smartest person in the room by making everyone else dumber or forging her luck a bit too much. I don’t know which one is less plausible: methodical Russian mob assassins doing clumsy work or the Russian crime-lord is a fraud after all. Maybe it’s the side-effect of the film’s subversive nature that catalyzes the process, but maybe the script is keen more on making the story bites without teeth
Even with the ground-level flaws in the narrative, I Care a Lot enjoys its rocketing audacity. Marla’s story in robbing and upsetting the crime-lord jostles around and ricochets blatantly, stylishly. The more the plot indulges in its provoking actions, the more it strays from the social commentary hinted at at the beginning, the more it focuses on what stings most. Pike also enjoys taking the job she does best to the next level. It’s the actress at her most chaotic fashion; but, even when she’s out as the finest beast, her performance alone couldn’t save this missed opportunity from delivering not as clever nor ironic as it’s projected.