Our Take: 2 Stars
On Feb. 19, Netflix added J Blakeson’s new dark comedy “I Care a Lot” to its library. “I Care a Lot” seems to be a movie tailor-made for a streaming service — it is star-powered, has screen-shotable subtitles and is visually flat and boring — but that was not the case.
The film premiered at 2020’s Toronto Film Festival and is a passion project of writer-director J Blakeson, whose earlier directorial credits include “The 5th Wave” and “Gunpowder.” Following the festival, both Netflix and Amazon Prime had an interest in the movie; both eventually licensed it in different parts of the world. While this may seem to add up to an enthralling and humorous thriller “I Care a Lot” fails to live up to its pedigree.
Rosamund Pike (“Gone Girl”) stars as Marla Grayson, a “professional carer.” In this profession, Marla makes a living by convincing a judge to appoint her as legal guardian for elders who appear to no longer be fit to live on their own. Once Marla is their guardian she places them in an assisted living facility, cuts off their access to the outside world and promptly sells their homes and belongings and liquidates their assets.
Marla is essentially a conwoman preying on the elderly. Everything seems to be going well for the anti-hero until her latest ward, Jennifer Peterson (Dianne West, “Edward Scissorhands”), ends up being connected to the Russian Mob. Said dangerous connection is Roman, her secret son, played by Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”).
What follows is two bloated hours of standard thriller shenanigans. The tide turns again and again as Marla and Roman attempt to out-maneuver and out-evil one another until eventually the viewer does not really care who wins.
In many cases an anti-hero protagonist makes for a compelling and intriguing movie — Pike’s Marla fails to do so, however. The viewer is given no setup, no history with Marla, no somber backstory that would make her seem relatable or likeable. Marla is a shadow of Pike’s “Gone Girl” role Amy — with none of the backstory and none of the clever lines — and while Pike is a superb actress who has shown she can excel with an unlikable character, her efforts fall flat.
After falling down a Google rabbit hole about legal guardianship in America, Blakeson said “I was horrified. Imagine opening your door one day and there is a person standing there holding a piece of paper that gives them total legal power over you … So the story started there. I sat and wrote it on my own and very quickly it formed into what is now ‘I Care a Lot.’”
The speed at which Blakeson claims to have written the script is very evident in the film. Save for a few good quips that leave the viewer chuckling, the dialogue is pretty dry and the film barely qualifies for the comedy moniker it is sold with.
Even when headed by two stars, Pike and Dinklage, who have no issue taking a villainous character and salvaging them into a fan favorite, “I Care a Lot” is hard to finish.
If endlessly scrolling through Netflix is getting old and some background noise is needed, throw on “I Care a Lot.” Otherwise, do not bother giving ‘I Care a Lot’ a shot.