By Zoe Talbot
A con artist and legal guardian, Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike) claims to be thoughtful and caring as she takes on hundreds of elderly wards. In reality, she is selling their belongings for a profit while they sit in care facilities. Ruthless and cunning, Grayson is sure she has found the perfect target, but the mark ends up being more trouble than she appears.
Jennifer Peterson (Diane Wiest) is not an ordinary elderly woman — she has friends in high places. No matter what Grayson does to her, Peterson is confident that “he” will come for her. Peterson leaves her guardian with a lot of questions: who is “he?” Why does this woman have millions of dollars of uninsured diamonds? Why is this ward unlike the hundreds she has conned before?
The film has a brilliant start. Grayson is an ambitious, “girl-boss” type, and her plan seems foolproof. Her partner in work and life, Fran (Eiza González), is passionate and just as smart as her girlfriend. With the help of care facilities and doctors to fake diagnoses, the court-appointed guardian is working her way to the top of the food chain one elderly person at a time. As the plot unfolds with twists and turns, the suspense transforms the movie to be more of a thriller and drama. There was no point in this film in which I knew what would happen next, nor could I even hypothesize what would happen next.
My greatest critique of this film is of Grayson herself. Marla is powerful and sly, but beyond these traits I find that she falls flat. She describes herself as a lioness, preying on the weakest, but cares wholly about being rich and cold. She loves Fran and riches, but beyond that we are given no insight as to what she could want this money for or what dreams she could accomplish by ruining the lives of the families around her. While Grayson is still captivating in every moment, she lacks depth and nuance; it feels like a wasted opportunity. This anti-hero is not able to be sympathized with or rooted for, and it frustrated me to feel like I eventually would care for the main character after the two-hour film.
Grayson’s opponent, Roman Lunyov (Peter Dinklage), is easier to cheer for. He cares about Jennifer, and is willing to do anything to get her out of the care facility. He is another sharp individual with a team to help him win his battles, and is intimidating in a way that matches Grayson’s shark-like manner. Even so, the film dubs him the leader of some strange adaptation of the Russian mafia that was hard to look past; I felt like they could have chosen Dinklage to play any nondescript man of power, but going in this specific direction felt misguided.
I was also surprised to find out that the film is labeled as a comedy. Even as a “dark comedy,” I laughed maybe once the entire time, and fail to remember what it was for. Nothing about the film is particularly funny, and again, it just seems like a strange decision that could have improved the film had it been taken a different direction or been labeled differently. I suppose the bright side is that I couldn’t identify a moment where the movie was trying to be funny, so it’s not like the jokes were falling flat; I just never found them.
I would say that I was captivated by the premise of this film, but it was unfulfilling in every other aspect. I was surprised by the plot twists and kept entertained by the drama, but the more I thought about it the less it all made sense.
“I Care A Lot” has a handful of moments that leave you in awe of the cleverness, but the rest of it somehow manages to make you wonder what it was for. The first half feels incongruent to the second in quality, writing and content; it isn’t even a bad film overall; I just felt so let down by how it played out. Maybe I was taking the film too seriously, and my suspension of disbelief got the best of me, but I’d really only watch this again in a few years once the plot has escaped me, and I come to forget the latter half of the film.