I Care a Lot

 

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The return of J. Blakeson finds the filmmaker on his best form – but not for all the time. 

 
I Care a Lot
  

Rosamund Pike is at her very best in this entertaining piece from the British writer/director J. Blakeson previously known for the intense thriller The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009). In a film which is a real pleasure for at least half of its length, Pike plays Marla Grayson an American criminal who works as a legal guardian. In cahoots with the manager of a care home (Damian Young) and with a doctor (Alicia Witt) who for cash is prepared to confirm that elderly rich patients have become unable to handle their affairs, Marla takes on the guardianship of a large number of people whose property then passes into her control.

 

This is a scam that has doubtless happened in real life and this gives the film a basic plausibility. Nevertheless, I Care a Lot is narrated by Marla herself on her own terms and the audience is asked to relish her audacity and her belief that in this world you get nowhere by playing fair. Of course, she has to be careful in selecting victims and when she picks out one Jennifer Peterson (the ever reliable Dianne Wiest) her judgment seems sound - Jennifer has no close family to become suspicious and to kick up a fuss. What Marla and her lover Fran (Eiza González) don't know is that Jennifer is not the woman she claims to be and whose identity she has usurped. Instead she is the daughter of a crime lord, Roman Lunyov (Peter Dinklage), a former member of the Russian mafia. He is a man whom you cross at your peril and unknowingly Mark and Fran have just done that.

 

Blakeson, partly filming in America, is attempting something bigger than he has done heretofore and he tells his immoral story in a style that is beautifully ruthless and to the point. Pike knows exactly how to play it for maximum value without actually going over the top. In the first half she sets the tone and the only one to infringe it - doubtless with Blakeson's approval - is Peter Dinklage who chooses to play Roman Lunyov in a manner akin to a James Band villain which is fine in the right context but feels wrong here. After all, I Care a Lot functions as a distinctive black comedy. Unfortunately, about half way through the screenplay starts to side with Dinklage's approach for it makes the threats to Marla which then develop so far-fetched that they echo the most extreme adventures of 007. Some viewers may, of course, positively delight in the film's total rejection of credibility, but for me this change of tone was a definite disappointment and one that increased one's concern that 118 minutes is too long for this type of material.

 

My regret was all the greater because the film's ultimate pay-off is extremely neat. In any case, despite its failings, I Care a Lot provides Rosamund Pike with a role that allows her to dominate the film in a way that will delight her fans and for at least half of its length she is able to give her admirers a treat that they would not want to miss. That being so, what a pity it is that the second half of the movie for much of its length just feels silly.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Rosamund Pike, Peter Dinklage, Eiza González, Chris Messsina, Macon Blair, Alicia Witt, Damian Young, Isiah Whitlock Jr, Dianne Wiest, Nicholas Logan, Liz Eng, Celeste Oliva, Georgia Lyman, Moira Driscoll, Kevin McCormick, Chris Everett.

 

Dir J. Blakeson, Pro J. Blakeson, Michael Heimler, Teddy Schwartzman and Ben Stillman, Screenplay J. Blakeson, Ph Doug Emmett, Pro Des Michael Grasley, Ed Mark Eckersley, Music Marc Canham, Costumes Deborah Newhall, Dialect coach Francie Brown.

 

Black Bear Pictures/Crimple Beck-ErosSTX Internaional.
118 mins. UK. 2020. Rel: 19 February 2021. Available on VOD. Cert. 15.