The initial premise of J Blakeson’s I Care a Lot reads similar to Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. Jordan Belfort exploited the ignored, undervalued currency in penny stocks and hit it rich. Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike) exploits the ignored, undervalued currency in elderly care and hits it rich.
Gamifying the system of old folks’ homes, Grayson convinces the legal system to give her soul legal care of elderly patients suffering from “dementia” (read: some “mental confusion,” as quoted by a corrupt physician). She has an agreement with a care facility to dump off her wards. Meanwhile, she flips their homes and sells their belongings. She lines the wall of her office with headshots of her victims, dotting them with color-coded stickers—a point system. It’s a game.
Until it isn’t.
I Care a Lot takes a turn early on, one which morphs this Wolf of Wall Street meets Unsane plot into something unexpected. And who am I to spoil the fun. Let’s just say Grayson’s latest victim Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest) is a bit less innocent than she appears. And she has a friend (Peter Dinklage) in a high place.
The whole thing may come across as a hat on a hat—the Peter Dinklage bowler does start to cast a shadow on the Rosamund Pike beret during the second act stretch. And the sticky bugaboo of logical inconsistencies starts to rear its ugly head (the law of it all is dubious at best, and the issue of multiple characters’ hidden identities leave behind a plot hole or two). All the same, the story moves at an entertaining enough clip that it may do me well to just gloss over such things.
What is harder to gloss over is the film’s general coldness. It is a film populated by criminals and corrupt or otherwise incompetent bureaucrats. Sure, no one’s a hero in this tale; and many great movies make good use of such ensembles. But Blakeson gives some of these characters instances of tenderness that don’t quite feel earned. Clever comedic lines alleviate the iciness of the characters better than the brief, pithy moments of pathos.
This tone of dark comedy is achieved through the film’s more than capable ensemble. Pike shines in the lead role, and Wiest is great (but is unfortunately lost in the shuffle after act one). And Dinklage can chew scenery just as engrossingly as he can chew a doughnut.
Visually, I Care a Lot has its moments, exciting flourishes which come most often in the form of set pieces where any dialogue is completely drowned out by the thrumming score from Marc Canham. The best of these scenes is an impressively staged car crash which plays out in fades in and out of black.
The final act of the film, which plays out following this crash, is frankly a bit of a mess (the biggest logical hurdle, for one, comes late, late in the film). And the last-ditch effort to make a mogul out of a late stage capitalist monster reads more cartoonish than it does satirical. It is almost enough to derail the whole endeavor, were it not for the nasty dark comedy that works so well throughout the previous two acts.
I Care a Lot: B-
As always, thanks for reading!
—Alex Brannan (Twitter, Letterboxd, Facebook)