Saturday, February 20, 2021

I Care a Lot

Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike) cares a lot. She cares so much that she actually makes a living out of it. Maneuvering the justice system to award her legal guardianship of the elderly and the retired, she locks them up in nursing homes as she drains them of their wealth and possessions. With the help of her girl Friday and lover Fran (Eiza González), the two are unstoppable, but are about to stumble upon their biggest prospect yet. Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest) is retired, without family, and owns a portfolio of lucrative investments. The pair easily manage to force her into Berkshire Oaks. However, things get complicated when they find out the hard way that Jennifer Peterson is not who she really claims to be, as the duo are caught in the crosshairs of ex-Russian Mafia Roman Lunyov (Peter Dinklage) who will not stop until he gets back what they took from him.

Now I know why a lot of people abhor this film. The screenplay dives deep into the realm of dark comedy and is not afraid to linger there for a while in order to elicit a disgusted reaction from its audience. Neither Roman nor Marla seems to have any redeeming qualities and, in the end, do not get that much sympathy. Nevertheless, the plot keeps you intrigued all the way to the ending, piquing your curiosity as to who will end up outwitting whom despite the general lack of compassion for these characters.

Though pigeonholed in portraying strong-willed women onscreen who just scare the shit out of you, Pike undeniably excels in such roles. Remember her turn as Amy Dunne in Gone Girl almost a decade ago? Her Marla Grayson is as ruthless, perhaps with less psychotic tendencies, but just as full of malice. Her ambition is so palpable you can see it in her eyes. Even though we do not get to know more about the character’s background, there is an attempt to rationalize her motives through her monologues by hinting on a not so ideal upbringing. Golden Globes victory well-deserved!

Offering strong support is Dinklage as Gray’s nemesis who is equally terrifying. His silent demeanor adds to the air of mystery but his abrupt physical outbursts underscore his supposedly dangerous persona. You just believe that the character is indeed capable of making you rethink your life should you dare cross him. Two-time Oscar winner Wiest also lends her credible acting chops as Jennifer even though she isn’t left with much material to work on other than be a cryptic plot device and bring about some much-needed suspense.

An unpopular opinion, though, regarding the source of revulsion as far as the storyline is concerned is that it hits a little bit too close to home. After all, such elaborate schemes do happen in real life and we all tend to root for the underdogs. In this case, those are the elderly being taken advantage of and utilized as pawns by these lowlife scums who manipulate the system to their advantage. We can argue that it is your typical story of privilege and the abuse thereof. If you belong in that cluster of society currently benefiting from that, I Care a Lot will most likely come across as a personal attack directed right at you.

In any case, poetic justice is served at the film’s conclusion, maybe not as most of us would expect but it is still there. The twist also forms a nice loop tying loose ends by the narrative’s conclusion. The lesson of the story hits hard, positing that there is nothing wrong with either ambition or unquenchable thirst for victory. Nonetheless, there is that thing called karma that will eventually make you accountable. Or perhaps it is more of a question of probability. The more people you step on en route to success, the higher the possibility that one or several of them will come back to bite you in the ass and rain on your parade.

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