Directed By J Blakeson
Starring – Rosamund Pike, Peter Dinklage, Eiza Gonzalez
The Plot – Poised with shark like self-assurance, Marla Grayson (Pike) is a professional, court-appointed guardian for dozens of elderly wards whose assets she seizes and cunningly bilks through dubious but legal means. It’s a well-oiled racket that Marla and her business-partner and lover, Fran (Gonzalez), use with brutal efficiency on their latest “cherry,” Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest), a wealthy retiree with no living heirs or family. But when their mark turns out to have an equally shady secret of her own and connections to a volatile gangster, Marla is forced to level up in a game only predators can play, one that’s neither fair, nor square.
Rated R for adult language throughout and some violence
– Substantial style. How did the same guy who directed “The 5th Wave”, one of the absolute worst visual presentations of 2016, conjure up an intoxicatingly alluring experience that is one of the most unique of 2021? The answer is exponential growth, and it’s littered throughout every avenue of aesthetics that the movie elicits. From the spontaneous editing, which coherently plays into the dramatic tempo of each sequence, complete with varied speeds and stylistic transition, to the film’s tonal evolution through a three act roller-coaster of highs and lows, Blakeson continuously contradicts the lunacy of the film’s screenplay with an almost artificiality in imagery that seduces and betrays audiences in the same way it does the residents depicted in Marla’s care. It creates a false sense of security that off-sets the range of madness that inevitably follows, cementing what I feel is Blakeson’s best work to date behind the lens, and setting him back on track with being one of the ten most promising directors of 2010, courtesy of Variety Magazine.
– Thoroughly educational. Beyond being just an entertaining piece of fiction, Blakeson’s equally intriguing screenplay gives plenty of thought-provoking commentary on the perils of the guardian system for audiences to chew on. Beyond the well-being of your loved ones being in the hands of someone completely unrelated, I was completely floored by the overall lack of control that the people in question have in their own lifestyles once the state declares them incapable of making their own decisions. It’s immoral and even a bit scary at times, and really conjured up no shortage of empathy for the victimization of these everyday people who lose nearly everything in one day. Myself being someone who has worked in a retirement village, it really opened my eyes to an idea that not everyone is there based on their own agendas, and sheds a light of awareness on the most vulnerable percentage of people whom are sadly taken advantage of everyday.
– Rhythmic pulse. There’s an unnaturally electronic musical score dispersed on the movie’s audibility that is courtesy of composer Marc Canham, and exemplifies an anxiety-riddled energy to the film that continuously rattles with urgency. Similar to the way Daniel Lopatin gave depth and devastation to the nightmarish fever dream that was 2017’s “Good Time”, Canham too elevates us with unnerving resonation that frequently alludes us to the danger persisting in the air, all the while tickling our audible senses with a balance of ranges and tempo’s that are equally as entrancing to listen to from a music lover’s perspective. There’s exceptional range, versatility, and instruments stirred into these riveting compositions, brewing an ominously enveloping consistency that not only feels inescapable for our characters, but equally influencing on the toes of my feet that never stopped tapping along the way.
– Air tight casting. Anyone who knows me knows I’ve been a fan of Pike’s for a long time, and if it weren’t for David Fincher casting her as Amy in 2014’s “Gone Girl”, then we never would’ve seen the other side of a devilishly delightful personality just yearning to open up. Marla feels like the full-fledged evolution of Amy, complete with intimidating stature and hole-burning looks and registries that are the visual metaphor for the cat swallowing the canary. She’s fierce, resilient, and breathtakingly capitvating for the way she commands the screen, and is very deserving of the Golden Globe nomination she recently received. Equally mesmerizing is Wiest as the ward in question throughout the majority of the film. Dianne not only brings the kind of gentle naivety to the character that breeds empathy from the audience continuously, complete with detailed quirks and traits that gives the character a very lived-in realism, but it’s also the way she psychologically turns it on a dime, bringing a chemistry with Pike that is every bit intriguing to watch unfold with anything but empty promises along the way.
– Changing stakes. To say this film is unpredictable is putting it lightly. So instead, I will commend Blakeson for his frequently enthralling pacing, which brought forth a curveball every ten minutes or so to constantly up the ante. Because of such, this especially is a difficult aspect of the movie’s benefit to discuss in detail, so instead I will shower this very consequential movie with the kind of chances it continuously takes, each of which adding an expansively indulging element that not only brings depth to the backstory of the characters, but also preserves a chess game between Marla and her adversaries that speaks volumes to the level of desperation that each are willing to explore to spite the other. It all leads to a climax and resolution that I’m sure will test many people’s final grade on the entirety of the picture, but for me it was the only way that a story like this could’ve ended realistically, further feeding into the weight of stakes that the movie repeatedly rolls with.
– Exceeded limits. The cinematography here from Doug Emmett is without question my favorite element of the film (Minus Pike), and one that challenges the unfolding of this narrative with many complexities in its documentation. Throughout the film, we are treated to occasional instances of unorthodox exploration in camera angles, which can either present an outsider’s perspective during a moment of physical interaction, or even double down on the urgency of a particular life-altering sequence. Such an occasion takes place during an underwater sequence, where a character fights for their escape, and we are alluded to such an urgent disposition through these sharp fade-to-black edits and a variety of angles inside of the car, that are all the more impressive when you consider how difficult the scene must’ve been to run through. Doug instills an inspiration of ambition that a lesser professional would’ve let slip through their fingers, and because of such engages us by constantly keeping us guessing where the photography will turn next.
– Ingrained message. Adding to a screenplay that is a lot deeper thematically than what I was expecting, is a series of events and overhead narration that feeds into the movie’s bigger picture, and outlines a cautionary tale of greed and self-indulgence that is directly contradicted with Marla’s character. She’s very much a protagonist who is all about stepping on someone to attain the next big thing in life, all the while following her own set of rules that breaks life’s ages old ideal that if you work hard, good things will come because of such. It plays into the turmoil with karma, where you will always be looking over your shoulder for those you’ve wronged along the way, but in addition shows no shame in the gluttony along the way that bites into the lavishes of the lifestyle, complete with 90’s-heavy montages that visually seduce us with the narrative presented. It’s rare to see an internal conflict within a film’s message, but “I Care a Lot” proves it dances to the beat of a different creative drum, and leaves audiences with the ability to piece together their own interpretation with the scattered details we are afforded as the flies of the way of everything that transpires.
– Moral conundrum. Easily the biggest adversity to me, and one that may weigh heavily on the way people invest to this story, is the questionable motivations in characterization that left me questioning which side of the coin should rightfully come out of this high stakes war of actions. With Marla, you have a woman stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the innocent elderly, as well as a guardian who in turn is keeping families from the loved ones with a complete shortage of time left on their internal clocks. On the other side, is a group of reputably dangerous individuals who take and bully whenever they want, and one whose questionable motivations throughout the film makes them irredeemable in the eyes of justice. It makes for an awkwardly challenging framing device at times that says a lot about the world that Blakeson creates, but above that writes itself into a corner of inevitability that doesn’t offer many avenues of positivity for the resolution that follows for the patient audience watching.
– Two films. There’s nothing terribly wrong with the movie’s second half evolving into an action thriller, complete with convenient disguises and respectable set pieces, it’s just that I enjoyed this film more thoroughly during its opening act, when its intimacy in setting, and evocative social commentary exceeded its reach for the theme’s bigger picture. To me, the film nearly gets out of hand by the third act, which no longer prioritizes who this mysterious group is, and what role Wiest plays in all of it, but rather fully engages itself in the game of revenge in the fight for survival. Fine enough for a climax, but formulaically like so many other films without half of the talent assembled on-screen or off that fought so hard to attain an original identity of their own. It feels a bit like a bait-and-switch for me personally, and promises a big war that it can never fully deliver on for the brief moments of impact that casually push the story forward, leaving us with an abrupt resolvement that trades in psychology for physicality it can never fully commit to.
My Grade: 8/10 or B+