|I Care a Lot|
|Directed by||J Blakeson|
|Written by||J Blakeson|
|Music by||Marc Canham|
|Edited by||Mark Eckersley|
|Box office||$1.3 million|
I Care a Lot is a 2020 American black comedy thriller film written and directed by J Blakeson. The film stars Rosamund Pike, Peter Dinklage, Eiza González, Chris Messina, Macon Blair, Alicia Witt, and Damian Young, with Isiah Whitlock Jr. and Dianne Wiest. The film follows a con woman who makes a living as a court-appointed guardian, seizing the assets of vulnerable elderly people, only for her to get mixed up with a dangerous gangster.
The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 12, 2020, and was released via streaming on February 19, 2021, through Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, depending on the region. The film received positive reviews from critics, with Pike winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical for her performance.
Marla Grayson is a Massachusetts con artist who makes a living by convincing the legal system to grant her guardianship over elders she pretends cannot take care of themselves. She places them in an assisted living facility, where they are sedated and lose contact with the outside world. She then sells off their homes and assets, pocketing the proceeds. She and the court deny a man, Mr. Feldstrom, access to his mother after he attempts to force his way in to the assisted living facility. He later threatens her outside the courthouse, saying that he hopes she is killed.
Dr. Karen Amos informs Marla about a wealthy retiree they can exploit named Jennifer Peterson. A judge appoints Marla guardian after she and Dr. Amos falsely testify that Jennifer suffers from dementia and confusion. Marla moves Jennifer into assisted living and immediately gets to work selling Jennifer's furniture, car and home. While rooting through Jennifer's possessions, Marla discovers the key to a safe deposit box containing a watch, gold bars, bank notes and hidden diamonds, which she takes and stashes away.
As Marla's girlfriend and business partner, Fran, helps renovate the house, a man driving a cab arrives and claims that he is there to pick up Jennifer. Fran informs him that Jennifer has moved. He returns to his employer (Roman Lunyov) greatly distressed, who threatens him with a gun. Roman, a crime lord, is Jennifer's son. He orders his underling Alexi to investigate his mother's living situation and Marla. Mafia lawyer Dean Ericson offers to pay Marla $150,000 in cash to release Jennifer but she refuses, only willing to do it for $5 million. He threatens Marla and takes her to court. The judge dismisses the case as he cannot prove Jennifer hired him.
Fran discovers "Jennifer Peterson" is an identity stolen from a girl who died of polio. When Jennifer refuses to tell Marla her real identity, Marla teams up with property manager Sam Rice, having many of Jennifer’s basic needs withdrawn. Roman, finding his mother's safe deposit box rifled, sends three thugs to Jennifer's facility to take her. This violent effort fails, and Marla helps police apprehend one of the men, Alexi. Fran's police contact informs them that Alexi is the sibling of two other mafia bosses who supposedly died in a fire. Having failed to rescue his mother, Roman has Dr. Amos killed at her office. After hearing the news, Marla and Fran move into one of the unsold properties of one of Marla's previous victims. At the facility, Jennifer attacks Marla and is moved to a psychiatric ward.
Marla is kidnapped while Fran is attacked in their home. Marla is brought before Roman Lunyov, where she asks for $10 million for Jennifer's release. Roman is impressed by her audacity, but refuses her request. His associates knock her out with chloroform and send her in a car into a lake. She escapes and returns home to find Fran unconscious and badly bruised as gas fills the house. They narrowly escape an explosion and flee to another unsold property, where Marla shows Fran diamonds she has hidden there. She offers Fran a choice: they can use the diamonds to leave right away and start a new life elsewhere, or they can get revenge.
They track down Roman through his license plate number and kidnap him. They drug him, steal his car, take him into the wilderness, leave him nude on a trail, and burn his car. Roman is discovered by a jogger. Unable to establish his identity, a judge designates him a "John Doe" and appoints Marla as his legal guardian. Marla visits Roman and offers to release him and Jennifer from her guardianship for $10 million. Instead, Roman offers her a partnership in a global business based on her scam. She accepts and, using his money and connections, quickly becomes a powerful, extremely wealthy CEO. Roman is reunited with Jennifer, while Marla marries Fran.
While leaving a TV interview about her success, Marla is shot by Mr. Feldstrom, who tearfully reports that his mother died alone in the assisted living facility because no one would let him see her. As Fran cries out for help and Mr. Feldstrom is arrested, Marla dies in her arms.
It was announced in May 2019 that Rosamund Pike had been cast to star in the film, which would be written and directed by J Blakeson. Peter Dinklage and Eiza González were added in June. In July 2019, Chris Messina and Dianne Wiest joined the cast of the film, with filming beginning in the same month. Scenes were shot in Dedham, Massachusetts, including at the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds.
The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 12, 2020. Shortly after, Netflix acquired distribution rights to the film in select countries, including the United States, France, Germany, Latin America, South Africa, the Middle East, and India. Amazon Studios acquired the rights to release it on Amazon Prime Video in Australia, Canada, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom through Black Bear's international distributor STX. It was released on both services on February 19, 2021. Over its first weekend of release, the film was the most-watched on Netflix, then second-most in its sophomore frame. On April 20, 2021, Netflix revealed that the film had been watched by 56 million households.
On Rotten Tomatoes, 79% of 207 critics gave the film a positive review. The site's critics consensus reads: "A searing swipe at late-stage capitalism, I Care a Lot is an exhilarating, pitch-black comedy with a wicked performance from Rosamund Pike." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 66 out of 100, based on reviews from 39 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Owen Glieberman, writing for Variety, gave positive notes to writer and director J Blakeson, whom he compared to Alfred Hitchcock, stating that "when he finally gets around to staging an action sequence, it's a doozy [...] because he takes his time and has you hanging on every moment". For Empire, Terri White wrote that Blakeson "doesn't always remain in full control of the story and tone, [but] the ride is so wild and entertaining that it doesn't particularly matter", and gave the film four stars out of five. Kate Erbland from IndieWire gave I Care a Lot a "B-" and said that "Blakeson's script piles on the complications fast and furious [...] but at least they keep his growing cadre of characters on their toes." Slant Magazine's Chuck Bowen gave the film two stars and a half out of four, and wrote that "Blakeson means for us to champion Marla as a feminist icon for a while, though he deflates this potential moral idiocy with an ironic ending."
Various critics also praised Pike for her performance as con artist Marla Grayson. While the Associated Press said "Pike pulls something off that few else could as a protagonist," Entertainment Weekly wrote that she delivered her best performance as a villain since Gone Girl in 2014. Noel Murray from The A.V. Club, who gave the film a "B+", also said that "Pike is an absolute delight as Marla". Meanwhile, The Hollywood Reporter said "Pike brings crisp efficiency and dead-eyed amorality to a legal conservator", and ABC News journalist Peter Travers wrote that "Pike makes a feast of the role".
Writing for Out, Mey Rude said that I Care a Lot was "almost a perfect lesbian movie", praising the "sinister glee" Pike brings to what "could've been an all-time great lesbian sex symbol" role and the "great chemistry" that she and Gonzalez have as the story "keeps escalating and twisting and turning". However, she strongly criticised the "undignified and blunt" ending. The New York Times said that the film was an "unexpectedly gripping thriller that seesaws between comedy and horror", praising it for being "cleverly written and wonderfully cast", and for its "ice-pick dialogue" and introduction of Peter Dinklage as Roman Lunyov. Furthermore, Jeannette Catsoulis wrote that "an overlong, somewhat mushy middle section made me fear Blakeson was losing his nerve. I was wrong."
However, for The Detroit News, Adam Graham gave the film a "D" and said that I Care a Lot was a "misguided black comedy" as viewers didn't have a way to relate to the character of Marla Grayson. For the Chicago Tribune, Michael Phillips gave the film two stars and wrote that while "the acting's uniformly strong [...] the script is distressingly weak." Mae Abdulbaki from Screen Rant gave a mixed review, lauding the performances from the ensemble cast, but writing that "there is something completely missing from I Care a Lot that makes it a hard pill to swallow." Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com wrote that along with Pieces of a Woman (2020), it was "another film that struggles with tone", and that Rosamund Pike was "clearly a tempting choice [...] but she and Blakeson never figured this character out."
For her performance, Pike won the 2021 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical.
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