Rosamund Pike is at her icy best in J Blakeson’s dark thriller about a corrupt legal guardian.
(This review is part of our coverage of the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival.)
Back in 2014, Rosamund Pike caught the world’s attention with her now-signature role as the fierce femme fatale in David Fincher’s Gone Girl. An Oscar nomination and 6 years later, the statuesque British actress has been unable to replicate that breakout success. In her latest turn, however, Pike displays flashes of that icy brilliance as Marla Grayson in J Blakeson’s darkly thrilling I Care A Lot.
Dressed in chic suits and sporting a perfect haircut, Marla Grayson is an ideal image of corporate achievement. Coupled with a persuasive way with words and a disarming likability, it’s easy to understand how she built a profitable reputation as a legal guardian for dozens of elderly wards. But under the pleasant facade lies a sinister truth. It’s all a scam.
With the help of her partner and a network of conspirators within the courts, medical system, and care facilities, Grayson manipulates the law to declare her clients unfit to take care of themselves. Once appointed as their legal guardian, she takes a generous cut of their finances for herself. High on confidence, she decides to pursue her most rewarding prospect yet – a perfectly healthy woman named Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest) with a large fortune to her name and seemingly no family to lay their claim to it.
As usual, her nefarious scheme works. Things start to go awry, however, when mysterious parties suddenly arise to rescue Peterson. After they send her veiled threats, Grayson senses danger. But she refuses to back down without a fight.
If you reimagined Nurse Ratched as a hustler too high up the food chain to get her hands dirty with patients, then you’d probably get someone like Grayson. She’s sharp and manipulative, a robust enough character around you could probably build an entire television series around. Pike gives her a sly, condescending swagger that’s endlessly watchable.
If you reimagined Nurse Ratched as a hustler too high up the food chain to get her hands dirty with patients, then you’d probably get someone like Grayson.
Of course, any antihero needs a good rival, and Grayson finds her match in the form of Peter Dinklage, playing a crime boss determined to take her down. He’s equally as formidable as Pike, and his presence instills a sense of much-needed dread. Though Grayson initially underestimates him, there’s never any doubt that she’s in trouble.
Eventually, Grayson becomes the hunted, Blakeson’s thrilling screenplay introduces several henchmen into the mix and hurling Pike into endless plot twists, each more thrilling than the next. From shootouts to stolen identities, there’s never a dull moment.
It’s all undeniably entertaining, though it lacks the complexity to make it truly great. It paints a cynical picture of American society, where seemingly everyone is ruthlessly motivated by greed. All the main characters appear to be driven by Grayson’s one-dimensional mantra: “I want to be very fucking rich.”
If you’re looking for further proof that American capitalism is rotten at its core, then I Care A Lot certainly delivers. But the superficial kick of watching bad people doing bad things misses an opportunity to interrogate the ways in which America’s social structures allow for elder abuse under the guise of parens patriae. Blakeson hits at meaningful satire, but there’s not enough dark comedy and sharp social commentary to make it fully effective. The score’s similarity to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s electronic score for The Social Network also does it no favors.
Still, as a piece of mainstream entertainment, I Care A Lot provides the goods with its riotously unpredictable story and a delicious star turn. After her recent portrayals of real-life heroes like Marie Curie and Marie Colvin in A Private War, it’s clear that Rosamund Pike is best suited to playing devils in disguise. When she’s in her wheelhouse as she is here, the results are glorious to watch.