Rosamund Pike is a slimy con-woman in Netflix’s I Care a Lot

By: Steve Pulaski

Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike) appears to have a foolproof operation on her hands, as inhumane as it is. She’s made a career out of plucking elderly people from their homes and into her a private-care facility under the guise they cannot take care of themselves. She’s got a doctor in her back-pocket as well as a judge, who grants her guardianship over the patients with practically no questions asked. She shows up to a person’s house with a document, insisting she’ll take good of their property while a driver pulls up and whisks them away to a nursing home and into their private room. From there on, Marla has control of their assets, savings accounts, medication, diet, and everything in between.

Marla works with her girlfriend Fran (Eiza González) and the two make a small fortune as they control the lives of a couple dozen seniors. It isn’t until our predators pick the wrong prey that they find themselves in hot water. Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest, who is sure to be overlooked despite a gentle performance) seemed like the perfect candidate for their scam: no kids, no husband, no immediate family, and in the early stages of dementia. Her kidnapping and imprisoning angers some dangerous people, namely Roman Lunyov (Peter Dinklage), a Russian mobster with a weakness for violence and pastries. Before resorting to violent, Lunyov sends his lawyer (Chris Messina, who crushes his big courtroom scene) to attempt to get Jennifer out of Marla’s facility, but to no avail. It becomes a cat-and-mouse game with Marla and Fran’s lives at risk as Marla wants substantial ransom money in order to release Jennifer. Her relatively young age makes her a “golden goose” as Fran describes; a cash-cow that will keep giving, potentially for a decade or longer. They see no reason to let her go unless they can force Lunyov to cough up a few million.

Over the course of I Care a Lot, you’ll despise Marla, but you’ll appreciate the slimy performance Rosamund Pike gives in order to make her so despicable. Pike boasts a razor-sharp blonde wig, various suits, firm facial expressions, and a vape pen as her character is driven by cold, unfeeling ambition. “Playing fair is a joke invented by rich people to keep the rest of us poor,” she states. She’d probably agree with Sam Cooke’s statement in One Night in Miami about not settling for a piece of the pie, but instead, wanting the whole damn recipe.

Dinklage is also effectively chilling as a mobster with enough lackeys to do his dirty work until they end up in jail or killed, forcing him to come face-to-face with Marla. Overtime you realize these two are not polar opposites. In fact, they’re two sides of the same evil coin: one has skirted the law, the other simply operates underground with blunt force.

J Blakeson — who also directed the underrated 5th Wave, which will sadly never get a sequel — challenges us never to take our eyes off these characters despite the fact we loathe them almost instantly after meeting them. That will turn off some viewers from the jump. Yet ugly, greedy characters have been the subject of films for quite sometime (consider The Wolf of Wall Street, one of the biggest hits of that year). They already run America, after all. Blakeson’s biggest crime is perhaps letting I Care a Lot run a little long. It bites off more than it can chew by having two lengthy climaxes. It’s no bother to Pike, who excels as a diabolical force of energy with a non-existent moral compass. There’s plenty here to entertain, but not much with which to sympathize — its biggest drawback in having a lasting impact.

NOTE: I Care a Lot is now streaming on Netflix.

Grade: B