Rosamund Pike rips off the elderly in a wicked Netflix movie that can’t quite nail down its genre
“You think you’re good people,” says a bitter voice that narrates the opening of I Care a Lot. “You’re not good people. Trust me — there is no such thing as good people.” That’s the credo of Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike), founder of highly lucrative and horrifically legal Grayson Guardianship. Her court-appointed job is to take care of mentally incapacitated senior citizens—wards of the state—while also giving herself a handsome stipend from their assets. And if any family members object? Too bad: she has legal domain over every aspect of those geriatric lives, secretly dialing up their medications to prove that those perfectly lucid elders are actually delusional, paranoid, and even a violent threat.
I CARE A LOT
Directed by: J Blakeson
Written by: J Blakeson
Starring: Rosamund Pike, Peter Dinklage, Elza González, Chris Messina, Dianne Wiest
Running time: 118 min
The relentlessly jaundiced, ruthlessly thrilling I Care a Lot is at its best when it revels so intensely in cocksure amorality. Grayson pulls off those cons because she has such a well-oiled grifter network. In exchange for some hot stocks, a shady doctor will testify that one of her rich patients is actually in the throes of dementia. For $2000 a week, the manager of a nursing home will hold a newly-emptied deluxe suite for Grayson’s next big prey. And Grayson’s sapphic lover Fran (Elza González) knows how to liquidate an old person’s million-dollar house, along with all its posh furnishings, within weeks.
Her best mark is a “cherry,” someone in good physical health without a spouse, children, or relatives and who has good credit, no debt, no criminal record, plus a comfy nest egg. And she’s finds a doozy in septuagenarian Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest), a sweet old lady who understandably throws frustrated, furious fits over her sudden incarceration. No worries: just adjust that hot-headed temper with a healthy dose of sedatives.
But then Peter Dinklage appears. With a Jack Dorsey goatee. Chauffeured around in a black Yukon. And carrying an éclair. Which is when things really get interesting. “Tell me who you are,” says a ruffled Grayson to a glassy-eyed, drugged-up Peterson. “I’m the worst mistake you’ll ever make,” she spits back. Turns out this cherry is more of a spider’s web. And Grayson just got entangled.
I Care a Lot code-switches its intentions, skipping genres when the mood strikes and exploiting stereotypes when convenient. First it’s a caustic cautionary tale about loopholes in a collusion-heavy health care system, then it’s a dark comedy about eccentric gangsters. The antagonist is a cold-hearted lesbian succubus, until she and her girlfriend become lovers-on-the-run victims of the patriarchy. Waitaminute, is this an action-pic portrait of dueling Terminators, a doomed LGBTQ romance, or a game-recognizes-game origin story for billion-dollar 21st century corporations that mask soullessness in virtue? It’s a lot to take in, and an irresistibly wild ride, until you start wondering who the hero is and realize that only side to root for in this dog-eat-dog world is the one that’s more dogged.
Is cynicism entertaining? Depends on your own sense of ethical outrage—as well as the filmmaker’s. J Blakeson seems to be indifferent to the corruption he portrays, except as a plot point in his admittedly clever and delightfully dark confection. Some bad behavior ends in death; most of it goes unpunished, or even worse unnoticed. I Care a Lot might call itself a satire if it were really concerned with moral deprivation. Instead, it’s solely focused—with unfettered admiration—on survival.
There’s an eleventh-hour comeuppance; but it feels perfunctory, a smirking side-eyed concession to propriety and a clever but half-hearted karma’s-a-bitch payback. You see, crime doesn’t pay! Except it does, actually, all the time, and the filmmaker’s heart is much more with his barracuda bitch than with any square sense of good. To the victor go the spoils. Everyone else is just a sucker.