REVIEW: ‘I Care A Lot’ is Cold as Ice and Cuts Like a Knife

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I Care A Lot

It’s typical for films, when injecting female leads into traditionally male genres, to fall into a few narrative pitfalls. There’s the temptation to qualify a female character’s presence by centering her story on the idea of “keeping up with the boys,” or extra care is put into making the character as likable as possible. After all, we wouldn’t want audiences to think of this exciting female lead as a bitch, would we? I Care A Lot is unburdened by these distractions and instead delivers a female villain that is as hard, cold, and sharp as a razor’s edge. She’ll slit your throat with an icy smile and you’ll love every minute of it.

I Care A Lot is directed by J Blakeson and stars Chris Messina, Peter Dinklage, Dianne Wiest, Eiza González, and Rosamund Pike, playing the megabitch of our wildest dreams. In the film, Marla Grayson (Pike) cares a lot… or so it would seem. Using the front of a court-appointed legal guardian, Marla seizes control of the life and assets of the elderly through a carefully calculated playbook of legal expertise, doctors and care providers on her payroll, and her most powerful weapon — the expectation that, as a woman, she would never be capable of this kind of harm. With her marks safely forgotten in nursing homes, Marla is free to drain their savings and line her pockets. Right up until she crosses paths with a wealthy older woman that is sitting on a goldmine — and some secrets.

As a crime-thriller, I Care A Lot just works. It’s a smart and sinister heist, delivered in a seductively slick and stylish package. Every turn takes us deeper into darkness, with zero apologies and absolutely no mercy. To say that I Care A Lot is mean-spirited is a massive understatement. This film is nasty, cynical, and populated with perfectly diabolical characters that you’d say you love to hate, but secretly it’s just love.

I Care A Lot has already garnered some criticism surrounding its subject matter. The premise of exploiting our culture’s neglect of the elderly is an evil that’s impossible to redeem. Critics of I Care A Lot maintain that the character of Marla Grayson is a villainess that you simply can’t root for. That’s the entire point. I Care A Lot works because it dares to be bad and invites the viewer to misbehave by loving every second of it.

The greatest strength of the film is Rosamund Pike, returning to Gone Girl levels of cold and mercilessness in her performance as Marla Grayson. Pike plays Marla with such an icy precision that you get a tiny shiver (of excitement? dread?) every time she’s on-screen. Her ability to pull off a kind of quiet strength and “fuck you” demeanor is essential to this criminal mastermind. More on that later.

Of course, Rosamund Pike is but one jewel in I Care A Lot‘s glittering crown of performances. Peter Dinklage is unhinged. Dianne Wiest is deceptively hardcore. Chris Messina is the best kind of sleazy in some fabulous suits. This wicked ensemble, paired with such a sleek production design is the best kind of indulgence for the viewer.

As a feminist piece — and some might hesitate to label it as such — I Care A Lot goes for a more sophisticated approach than other “girl power” crime dramas that came before. The subtle feminism of I Care A Lot is embedded within the central heist of the film. Women, on a broader societal level, are labeled as caregivers and nurturers. For no reason aside from the convenience of gender roles, people like to think that the care of women is care that you can trust. That woman will happily step in to offer love, support, and care to those that need it.

The legal-guardianship scam of I Care A Lot subverts this notion of women as society’s caregivers. In fact, Marla Grayson is counting on that expectation. At several points in the film, Marla is counting on the fact that the men around her — judges, lawyers, the family of her victims — will underestimate her because she is a woman. Her scheme relies on everyone around her expecting her to be that perfect steward of care for the elderly. Instead of following the Hollywood trope of feminism by means of bucking the traditionally feminine, I Care A Lot and Marla Grayson weaponizes traditionally femininity. The result is so much more effective and disconcerting and the entire film becomes an elegant illustration of how distinctly feminine power can not only thrive in a man’s world of crime, it can dominate in it.

I Care A Lot is a sharp, hard-as-nails critique of our culture’s ugliest corners. Standing confidently on a foundation of rock-solid performances and a chilling concept, I Care A Lot encourages the viewer to sin decadently and trust no one.

I Care A Lot is available now exclusively on Netflix.

 

I Care A Lot
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

I Care A Lot is a sharp, hard-as-nails critique of our culture’s ugliest corners. Standing confidently on a foundation of rock-solid performances and a chilling concept, I Care A Lot encourages the viewer to sin decadently and trust no one.