I Care A Lot Review

I did not care for I Care A Lot.

J Blakeson’s tonally deft and awkward thriller begins by introducing us to Marla (Rosamund Pike), a taut, chilly figure tasked by the court to provide care to those who have fallen through the cracks. Ostensibly a legal guardian, Marla’s true motivation is to exploit the vulnerable, shack them up in assisted living homes while living off the proceeds. When one unstable son (Macon Blair) is unable to visit his mother, their violent and awkward confrontation is dismissed as the cost of doing business.

Along with her business partner and lover Fran (Eiza González), the two seek out the perfect person to exploit – rich, childless, making for an easy mark to warehouse and clear out their assets. When they settle on their victim Jennifer (Dianne Wiest) everything seems like it’s going according to plan, as they hoodwink the judge thanks to unscrupulous medical documentation and begin the process of hollowing out Jennifer’s property.

Unfortunately, Jennifer’s not quite the simple mark they counted on, and her connection to a local crime boss (Peter Dinklage) results in things going awry and quickly.

The ingredients are here for something pretty great – you’ve got a prickly protagonist in Marla, ripe for a sadistic and sociopathic turn. You’ve got the tension between the small-time crimes and the larger landscape of a mafia-like organization, pitting the scope of what each is willing to do in ways interesting to explore. The setup could indeed be rich to plumb the depths of human depravity, to shine a welcome light on the plague of elder abuse and the broken structures of the legal system and for-profit medical industry that benefits from such appalling behaviour done under the imprimatur of “caring” for their wards.

Instead, we get a near slapstick, maudlin, repulsive film that tries to go towards the darkside only to dance around its most dastardly aspects. Pike’s performance is two-dimensional and drifting, never once feeling driven by anything only than bristling ambition. A caricature of sociopathy, her hubris feels like a comic-book villain rather than displaying the kind of skin-crawling mendacity that’s required. 

Similarly, there’s nothing more tiresome than incompetent crime lords, and Dinklage and his crew are a sorry lot indeed. More Keystone Cops than coming across as competent killers, this hapless crew is so fatuous that its galling. This interrupts the narrative in stupid ways as well, where a shootout in a nursing home filled with cameras is apparently à propos, but in the offing of a protagonist they’re going to take a page from North By Northwest and manage to fuck that up too.

Dinklage is bad, man, playing the bad man. I don’t know what he could have done with the spotty and inane script, but his somnambulant take diminishes the role further. The connection between González and Pike feels more icky than intimate, with not a spec of chemistry between the two. Worse, when the film does need to have the stakes of sacrifice elevated it cheapens out, taking out secondary elements rather than things that may indeed provide a moral quandary for our lead.

From there we get a predictable, appallingly banal final act that undercuts any elements that did manage to elevate it from pulpy dreck. Wiest, perhaps the film’s most interesting character and supposedly the center of the conspiracy, is written out of the last half with such fervour that we simply don’t care when things return to a semblance of normal.

Trite, tired and totally redundant, I Care A Lot is a cowardly film that refuses to get into the moral muck that it spreads without consideration, resulting in a unthrilling thriller than fails at almost every level. 

/Film Rating: 1 out of 10

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About the Author

Jason Gorber is a film journalist and member of the Toronto Film Critics Association. He is the Managing Editor of ThatShelf.com, Features Editor at DTK Magazine and a critic for HighDefDigest.