12/05/2021

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I Care A Lot review: Rosamund Pike in psycho mode can’t rescue this uneven thriller

Rosamund Pike in I Care a Lot

SEACIA PAVAO / Amazon Studios

Tum-ti-tum. Another week, another film about American guardianships. The most recent headline stealer is, of course, the Britney documentary, but this new Rosamund Pike thriller also covers the weird world of guardians. Pike plays Marla, a professional guardian with a psychopath haircut who hoodwinks diddly old women into giving her control of everything they own and are. Then she swindles them hard. She’s a good grifter, partly thanks to her smoking-hot business partner and girlfriend Fran (Eiza González), who drives her around in a big car and kisses her when she needs a boost.

Life is pretty sweet for Marla as she’s a born predator unburdened by twinges of conscience. But soon she meets her match in Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest), who seems to be the ideal victim: she’s a ‘cherry’, meaning she’s filthy rich and has no living relatives. Fran strikes without mercy, getting poor old Jennifer committed to a home. What Marla doesn’t know is that Jennifer’s son is a Russian people-trafficker with a penchant for torture and iced eclairs (played with pout and solemnity by Peter Dinklage).

Dianne Wiest (centre) with Eiza Gonzalez (left) and Rosamund Pike in I Care a Lot

SEACIA PAVAO / Amazon Studios

This should be a great film. Pike is Gone Girl bad, with all the attributes of a modern villainess: she vapes, she drinks espressos from weeny cups, her suits come in all shades of empowered. The story is pretty fun: you’re meant to feel guilty about all these ancients getting asset-stripped, but of course you long for the suckers to go down because they’re old and rich and pampered.

If the film magnificently takes off at the start, it rather droops midway through. A central issue is that Pike and González look and seem like two supermodels pretending to be madly in love, in a film about a slightly niche legal area. There’s no crackle there, no salt and sugar. And alas, length is a problem too: just as you’re downing tools after a nice night in front of the telly, a third act barges into view, extending the film unbearably. By the end I felt like one of the zombies in the old people’s home, gumming away in front of a blasting screen.

Rosamund Pike and Peter Dinklage in I Care a Lot

SEACIA PAVAO / Amazon Studios

But the central problem is that it feels loudly propagandistic. ‘Don’t get fooled by old people,’ Marla warns at one point, ‘Even sadistic, immoral assholes get old.’ She is a self-declared ‘lioness’ among meadows of gambolling lambs; she does what she does, like Dinklage’s character, because she’s looking after number one. Marla may be nominally to blame but what’s really in the wrong here is late stage capitalism, for providing structures and incentives to meanies like Marla. She’s cast, with all the subtlety of a vuvuzela, as the embodiment of the neolib nightmare: an extractive, attractive, ice-cold girl-boss who laothes the vulnerable and wants to become, as she says, ‘really fu*king rich’. In the end the moral of the tale feels force-fed, and as the battle between Marla and her mobster escalates, it’s hard to care.

TWO STARS

I Care A Lot is out now on Amazon Prime

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