I Care A Lot, written and directed by J Blakeson, tells the story of Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike), a crooked legal guardian who uses legal loopholes to put old people under her “care” and then drains their savings. But things take a turn for the worse when she tries to do the same with Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest) without doing a lot of background research, thereby landing her in the crosshairs of Roman Lunyov (Peter Dinklage). It is a fantastically constructed movie with pitch-perfect direction, writing, editing, cinematography, costume design, score, and searing performances from the cast, especially Pike, who will make you feel absolutely sick for rooting for her.
Have you watched Gone Girl? I am referring to that because it is also a movie with Rosamund Pike in it. That David Fincher movie is one of my favourites of all time. I enjoy watching it. When I watched it the first few times, I found myself rooting for Ben Affleck. The next few times I rooted for Pike. And in the latest few viewings, I was disgusted by both of them and came to the conclusion that they deserve each other and should stay with each other so that no one else comes in their toxic path. But one of the most common takeaways I’ve seen is that it has a women empowerment message in it (It doesn’t). So, I am really interested to see what kind of discourse Pike’s I Care A Lot is going to initiate.
I Care A Lot is written and directed by J. Blakeson. It’s produced by Blakeson, Michael Heimler, Teddy Schwarzman, and Ben Stillman, and executive produced by Andrea Ajemian and Sacha Guttenstein. The music is by Marc Canham, cinematography by Doug Emmett, editing by Mark Eckersley, production design by Michael Grasley, art direction by Michael C. Stone, set decoration by Vanessa Knoll, costume design by Deborah Newhall, hair and makeup by Robert Frampton, Lori Guidroz, Krystle Poulin, and Trish Seeney, and sound design by Dillon Bennett. It features Rosamund Pike, Peter Dinklage, Eiza González, Dianne Wiest, Chris Messina, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Macon Blair, Alicia Witt, Damian Young, Nicholas Logan, and more. The story revolves around Marla (Pike) who is a “crooked legal guardian who drains the savings of her elderly wards meets her match when a woman she tries to swindle turns out to be more than she first appears.”
J. Blakeson’s writing is crisp and evil as it makes you second guess if you should for Marla or Roman.
Framing is everything. One of the biggest problems I had with Joker was that it framed Arthur Fleck as this wronged people’s hero who we should empathise with. I think that’s f*cked up. You can make the audience empathise with a character. But if it’s a villain, you need to make the audience think about whether they should like them beyond the honeymoon phase (Which is the initial phase of liking until you understand the morality of the character’s actions). You obviously have to make someone likable to do a movie. If someone is bad throughout the story, it’ll probably get boring. So, Blakeson smartly starts off with this Robin Hood-esque, underdog tone and draws you in so close to Marla that you cannot figure what she’s doing is right or if a “win” for her is actually a win, let alone something you should be cheering for.
Without going into a lot of detail, if I look at it from a very objective point of view, I think that Marla isn’t as bad as her enemies. But, see, that’s the thing! She is horrendous. Yes, she’s using the shortcomings of the legal and the healthcare system. So, you can blame it all on the existence of said shortcomings. However, she is using them to such an extent that it is criminal, and it’s exemplified by Fran’s reactions to her actions. And I absolutely like to marinate in this deep grey area. Additionally, I think this is one of the rare times where we get to see what happens when the protagonist takes the antagonist’s call-to-partnership. It’s a trope that’s used a lot in superhero movies and the hero obviously says “no” to the villain and we never get to see the alternative. Well, I Care A Lot shows that storyline, and oof!
I Care A Lot’s visual storytelling matches up to its narrative storytelling, thereby making for a pleasurable viewing experience.
We’ve talked about narrative framing. Let’s talk about visual framing. I think I have come to the conclusion that I like non-hand-held camerawork better than, well, hand-held camerawork. It especially works really well in a movie like I Care A Lot because things shouldn’t be so smooth. We are seeing the life of a goddamn villain that is Marla. And we want things to be chaotic. But the fact that it does not, it really throws you off the scent and makes you ponder if you are the one who’s perceiving things in the wrong way and whether Marla’s perspective is right, FYI, which is something that Marla wants her patients to think. The best example of this technique is the scene where Jane is taken away to her “home”. It’s not overly edited. It’s in slow motion. Yet, you feel as dazed and confused as Jane. It’s perfect!
I cannot explain how much I loved Marc Canham’s score. It has the right amount of pulp, grit, pop, and an all-encompassing sinister vibe to it. It’s always synonymous with the pulsating, anxiety-inducing tone of the story. And it just fuc*ing slaps. The colour-grading is beautiful. The costumes are very functional but are consistent about the inconsistency between the characters and their actions. In simple terms, Marla wears yellow, which is associated with brightness and positivity, and she does some of the most heinous stuff possible. I don’t want to go into Roman a lot because the mystery around him should be experienced firsthand. Without spoiling anything, his entire aesthetic, down to the sound design around him is very calming, thereby contradicting the storm that is raging inside him. There’s some amazing stuntwork in here and do look out for Pike giving Tom Cruise a run for his money with an underwater sequence.
Rosamund Pike is firing on all cylinders in I Care A Lot and is aptly supported by Peter Dinklage, Eiza González, and Dianne Wiest.
This is a Rosamund Pike exhibition. Holy hell! She is so good here. I mean, she is good in every movie she has ever appeared in and she is as good in this movie as well. She is literally incapable of missing and we should be lauding her for that. Her action-heavy and verbose dialogue bits are interesting to watch, especially her dialogue-heavy scenes. They are hypnotic because that’s what swindlers like Marla do. They put you in a trance by talking simple shit but in a tone that switches off your brain and turns you into their puppet. It’s some nuanced stuff and Pike has perfected it to the T. More than that, I really liked those little moments where she says the “right thing” to fool people. She fakes contemplation and then she says the most righteous thing. It’s hilarious and I simply loved it.
Peter Dinklage doesn’t need to prove what he can do with his face. He has shown that in ample proportions throughout Game of Thrones. Am I right? Yet, here he is to show why he’s so good at his job. He’ll put the fear of God in you and then make you think that if Pike’s Marla isn’t afraid of that, what is she made of? It’s a clever way of amplifying Pike’s performance, in my opinion. Eiza González is in form. This is the kind of role that she should’ve been offered after Baby Driver instead of, well, whatever she was given. Look at her range! Look at her screen presence. And look at her knock it out of the park in that final scene. Hollywood, please, give her more roles like this. Wiest is jaw-droppingly good. Messina exudes greasiness without being greasy. Macon Blair is fantastic in his short performance and so is Logan!
I Care A Lot is amazing. After watching the trailer I was sure that it’s going to be right up my alley and I wasn’t wrong. The only little caveat that I have with it is that the plot armour gets a little thick during Marla and Roman’s confrontation. Apart from that, I have no problems at all. This is perfect storytelling, narratively and visually, which is beautifully complemented by the people on and off the screen. I think this is my favourite Rosamund Pike performance of all time. And I highly, highly recommend watching this so that you can learn how to tell a story with a villain as the protagonist correctly.
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Cover artwork by Bhavya Poonia/Mashable India