Director J Blakeson makes a wonderful return to feature film directing in Netflix’s I Care a Lot. Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike) uses the poise of a shark-like self-assurance in her job as a professional, court-appointed guardian for dozens of elderly wards. However, Maya secretly seizes their assets and cunningly milks them for all they’re worth through dubious but legal means. It’s a well-oiled racket that Marla and her business partner and lover Fran (Eiza González) use with brutal efficiency on their latest “cherry,” Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest), a wealthy retiree with no known living heirs or family.
However, the duo’s latest mark actually has an equally shady secret of her own and connections to a volatile gangster Roman (Peter Dinklage). Marla is forced to level up in a game only predators can play — one that’s neither fair nor square. The film’s opening features a cunning voiceover by Rosamund Pike as we see the horrors of a nursing home and the actions an adult child takes to try and visit their parents. We then cut to Judge Lomax’s courtroom (Isaiah Whitlock Jr.) as he hands down yet another victory to Marla.
From the film’s opening moments, J Blakeson’s script skillfully sets a tone where the audience wants to root for a grifter. This plot point is nothing new, as a film about con artists such as The Sting hustled their way into moviegoers’ hearts and secured Oscar gold. The moment Marla appears on screen sporting a fresh bob haircut and a boisterous red dress that radiates strength and power, I knew that I was in for a good time with the film.
The swagger that Marla handles herself within the courtroom, combined with the way she hustles her marks, is awe-inspiring. She is always one step ahead of her victims. One of my favorite scenes in the film occurs when Marla faces off against with Dean (Chris Messina) an associate of Roman’s. It’s a great scene and showcases a woman who has an ice-cold demeanor when taking on the competition. Throughout the film, Rosamund Pike fully displays a facet of emotions and validates her Golden Globe nomination. Pike effortlessly turns Marla into a villainous you root for and a character you want to see win.
J Blakeson’s script for I Care a Lot also creates a substantial arc for Dianne Wiest’s Jennifer Peterson and her connection to Roman (Peter Dinklage). Blakeson introduces us to Jennifer by showing off numerous shots of her home, decorated in shades of blue. The smokescreen he sets up for the character and its correlation to the color blue was very impressive. Per the course, Dianne Wiest is a joy to watch on screen. And I encourage viewers to avoid spoilers about her character as much as possible.
Peter Dinklage is downright diabolical as Roman, and I enjoyed the slow reveal of his character layers. When Roman finally comes into contact with Marla, it makes for a great mano a mano showdown. I would love to see the actors go toe to toe again in a battle of wits in another project. Eiza González is also useful as Fran, Maya’s girlfriend and second in command. While there are a few intimate scenes between González and Pike, Blakeson handles it tastily and never focuses on the same-sex aspect, which I also liked. Alicia Witt also provides solid supporting work as a fellow accomplice in Maya’s schemes.
In the end, I Care a Lot does succeed as a thriller. Concurrently I also saw the film as an allegory for the love of greed and the consequences of not having your house in order when you become a senior citizen. The scam that Marla pulls off is so skillfully done, I wouldn’t be surprised they often happen in the real world. Driven by Rosamund Pike’s villainous turn and set to a razor-sharp, witty script, I Care a Lot is highly recommended.
Final Grade B+
I Care a Lot will be available to stream on 2/19/2021 at www.netflix.com/ICareALot