Star unleashes as ‘remorseless monster’
Rosamund Pike unleashed is the best kind of Rosamund Pike.
Her steely but mischievous eyes tell you immediately that she's up to no good and that you're going to get to go along for the ride. We saw it in Gone Girl and it's on display here in I Care A Lot, in which her character Marla Grayson is less of a psychopath but just as amoral.
Marla is a professional legal guardian, appointed by courts to look after the interests of people who can't look after themselves and have no one in their lives to take on the responsibility.
That sounds noble in theory, but the system is open to exploitation by unscrupulous individuals who see dollar signs instead of compassionate acts. Unscrupulous individuals like Marla.
The mostly legal scam works in collusion with doctors and aged care home directors. Marla has herself declared as the legal guardian over an older person and takes full control of their medical care and finances, selling their homes and possessions to pay herself enormous fees for her service.
Marla can take over someone's life and they can't say anything about it - they don't even know about it until she, a stranger, turns up to their door with a court order in hand.
If she sounds like an unremorseful monster, she is. But she justifies herself to the audience through a voiceover about the didactical fight between predators and prey. She has no problem being a predator because the world is set up by rich people peddling the falsehood of "playing fair to keep poor people poor".
And she wants to be rich - and there are plenty of people in her orbit more than willing to be complicit (including characters played by Alicia Witt, Eiza Gonzalez and Damien Young) in her schemes if they get their kickbacks.
Marla's (and the film's) critique of capitalism would be more effective if it had more teeth. But I Care A Lot spends most of its two-hour runtime on Marla's side, which blunts any properly scathing commentary.
Pike is almost too effective, her delicious villainy too irresistible to completely loathe. From her sharp canary yellow suit to her fearless resolve, Marla may be problematic, but she is fabulous.
But if you think Marla is untenable, then I Care A Lot offers up someone worse: Peter Dinklage's mysterious gangster figure with a Rasputin beard and a secret connection to Marla's latest victim, a wealthy woman named Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest).
The battle of wills between Marla and Dinklage's character becomes a contest of who is the bigger scoundrel. Scenes between Pike and Dinklage should play better as two sharks circling each other, but Pike outclasses Dinklage's caricature.
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There are caper elements to the film that are fun to savour but the movie, written and directed by J Blakeson (The Disappearance of Alice Creed) rarely rises above some solid entertainment. You keep expecting it to punch a little harder, but it never really does.
Its frequent oscillations in tone are jarring, as if it sometimes forgets it set itself up as a dark comedy, while indulgent use of montages overlaid with trance music looks too much like a car ad.
It's a case of Pike being better than the movie she's in, but that alone makes I Care A Lot worth checking out - and when it's just one click away on streaming, the barrier to entry is only your time.
I Care A Lot is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video
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Originally published as Star unleashes as 'remorseless monster'