I Care a Lot review: The morally reprehensible characters are precisely what makes this Netflix movie so compelling
No good guys
I don't know about you guys, but I have not stopped thinking about Amy Dunne's Cool Girl monologue since 2014. The scene serves as the devastating twist to psychological thriller film, Gone Girl; a critically-acclaimed piece lauded for its screenplay, direction, and strong performances — particularly from Rosamund Pike, the British actress who plays the enigmatic Amy Dunne.
To this day, I marvel at how Pike manages to convey a whole spectrum of emotions in a mere two minutes: an equal measure of ruthlessness and regret that toes the line between compassionate and cruel. She's done bad things, that's for sure, but you can you hate someone when you understand — nay, sympathise, even — with their motivations?
The lead of Netflix's latest original movie, I Care a Lot, is cut from the same cloth. She is also, coincidentally, played by Rosamund Pike, who expertly depicts an ambitious, callous grifter with ease. Its premise is simple: Marla Grayson is a con woman who routinely bribes physicians and nursing home directors to declare elderly patients mentally unfit. She then convinces judges to declare her as the senior's official guardian, thus allowing her to control their properties, assets, and more. In short: she makes a living by literally stealing money off old people. Wow.
It's a cushy job as any; an effortless ploy conducted with the help of Marla's girlfriend, Fran (Eiza González), and various other underlings similarly corrupt in nature. Things are going swimmingly, until Marla makes a mark out of Jennifer (Diane West), who turns out to be the mother of an infamous Russian mob boss, Roman Lunyov (Peter Dinklage).
Chaos, naturally, ensues, seeing how Jennifer is far from pleased at being deemed psychologically unsound. What follows is a cat and mouse game between Marla and Roman, a battle of wits and fists that culminates in an intense kidnapping (or two). Its dark subject matter gets moments of levity in the form of both Dinklage's and Pike's comedic timing, interspersed with ridiculous dialogue ("I'm a f*cking lioness!") and Marla's repertoire of bright, pastel-hued suits.
But what makes I Care a Lot one for the ages is its unrelenting portrayal of awful, unforgivable characters. Not a single one is morally sound, or granted a redemption arc in any shape or form. Marla isn't given a sob story so we, as an audience, can better understand her decisions, Roman doesn't see the light and absolve from violence, while Fran willfully partakes in swindling innocent old folk. Every character is a monster through and through. It is a film, essentially, about bad people doing bad things; a take both revolutionary and refreshing seeing how the director doesn't even attempt to paint anyone as a misunderstood hero.
That's not to say that you won't find yourself rooting for any of them. As terrible as these characters are, I did find myself sincerely moved by the small moments of humanity that shine through. Marla's devotion to Fran was plain to see, as was Roman's adoration for his mother. Ultimately, these are some very misguided people doing terrible things in the name of love. Does that make their actions forgivable? No. But it does make one hell of a good story. And in the age of reboots, remakes, and ridiculously unimaginative movies, it is just what we need.