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Colorful ‘I Care A Lot’ gleefully satirizes cutthroat greed

Colorful ‘I Care A Lot’ gleefully satirizes cutthroat greed

Colorful ‘I Care A Lot’ gleefully satirizes cutthroat greed
March 16
10:41 2021

“There’s two types of people in this world. Those who take and those that get took. Predators and prey. Lions and lambs. My name is Marla Grayson and I’m not a lamb. I’m a f—ing lioness.”

Ruthless and sly Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike) has the best grift — she targets lonely, wealthy elderly folks and uses her contacts to gain legal guardianship over them. Placing them in an isolated assisted living facility, she then cleans out their finances with her girlfriend Fran (Eiza González). However, they target one Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest), who attracts the attention of a Russian mob boss (Peter Dinklage). This time, Marla might just be in over her head

Directed and written by J Blakeson, “I Care A Lot” is the kind of movie looking to revel in the ability of its cast to play the worst kind of people: manipulators, gangsters and killers. With Pike channeling some of her “Gone Girl” energy to play a character who’s despicable in her own special way, does this dark comedy rank with the best?

Sort of.

The big draw is obviously Pike as Blakeson’s conniving villain protagonist. Marla is a whole different kind of criminal from Amy Dunne — someone who is slick, charismatic and revels in how successful she has been at destroying lives. Pike is clearly having fun as one of the evilest characters she’s ever played. She’s cold, confident and very fun to watch.

Accompanying Marla is Fran, who serves as her lover and investigator. She plays a smaller role but clearly knows the dangers of their business and their interactions are surprisingly sweet to watch for two very selfish people. The only downside is that Fran doesn’t get any real focus outside of her scenes with Marla.

Against these two is Dinklage as Roman Lunyov. Dinklage’s natural authoritative presence gives him a ruthless edge, but he also gets to ham it up in a much colder manner. He’s intimidating, yet he uses his intense demeanor to provide some of the dark comedy. A pretty good match for Pike’s Marla.

In the supporting cast, Wiest surprises as Peterson. While seemingly just an innocent old woman at first glance, the film gradually peels back layers to show her as something darker. Chris Messina also gets some great scenes as the greasy lawyer Dean Ericson, accompanied by some memorably loud suits.

To go behind the camera for a bit, Blakeson also shows himself to be a pretty skilled director. While his last movie was the banal 2016 film “The 5th Wave,” here he shows a good understanding of how to position his actors and create pleasing compositions for our eyes, and when things get hectic he doesn’t rely on shaky-cam to get the job done.

The dialogue mostly holds up, though some of it is pretty unsubtle and the film seemingly loses its way in the third act. There’s a development resulting in some real slapstick moments that feel somewhat out of keeping with Blakeson’s style of humor. The events leading into the ending also feel a bit contrived, though they do reach satisfaction. However, Blakeson carves out a nice little skewering of modern capitalism and the adoption of neoliberal feminism by its elites.

Praise should also go to the color palette — Blakeson’s work here is sleek and sharp. The best moments are when he contrasts the warm colors against colder environments, combining with the slick lighting to get them a weird sense of sterility, highlighting the rot underpinning the main characters’ activities and world.

This approach is also underlined by Marc Canham’s sublime, poppy electronic score. There’s a nice mix of base, ambient synth and a pleasant sort of etherealness at certain moments. Probably not one of the best, but it adds to the artificial nature of the color palette and sense of corporate sterilization.

However much like its main characters, not everything is as clean as it initially appears.

Again, González’s Fran feels somewhat underused and undeveloped. While she does show how Marla accomplishes her crimes through heavy research, her character doesn’t have much dynamism or any more than two dimensions. Marla’s love for her makes the former more sympathetic but that’s about it. González deserved more meat.

As mentioned above, the third act is a bit murky. It’s not hard to understand what’s going on, but the film hits the brakes hard for a bit. There’s a scene involving a breakout that really goes nowhere and feels wasteful. Then the writing going into the ending and while it is satisfying, it somewhat takes away from the film’s hard look into its cutthroat characters.

While this complaint is incredibly subjective, I did feel a bit weird about how the movie handled Marla’s status as an unsympathetic monster. She’s pretty clearly a vulture for the first two-thirds, but then the movie feels as if we’re supposed to root for her. You want her to suffer, but the film seems to make a 180 turn for a bit and not even in a fakeout.

“I Care A Lot” largely succeeds in its cold examination of how a competitive market turns people into monsters. Pike once again enamors in a role she’s having lots of fun with, anchored by a strong supporting cast, production and themes to digest. While “I Care” stumbles a bit in its writing, its dedication to its unsavory underworld and unsympathetic character gives it legs.

Will’s rating: 3.5/5

Featured image: Courtesy Netflix

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Will Tarpley

Will Tarpley

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