News flash: The feminist movement wants their membership card back! The Netflix Original “I Care a Lot” won Rosemund Pike a Golden Globe for best actress, and frankly, as a fan of hers from “Gone Girl,” I don’t see it. Pike plays Marla Grayson, a swindling legal guardian who pries old people out of their homes under the guise that they’re now wards of the state. She then swoops in, steals their homes, their money, their livelihood, and makes her and her partner rich. This movie is supposed to be an ode to the poor conservatorship care in America — which I’m sure is true — but I was also nodding off 30 minutes into the movie. If they call this a thriller then I’m glad I never stick around for the award shows. These guys never know what they’re talking about.
Been There, Done That
In 2014, Rosamund Pike’s Amy Dunne was my antihero icon, but I just couldn’t connect to Marla. I wanted an antihero, but instead, I got a 30-something-year-old woman wearing brightly colored pantsuits and smoking an electronic cigarette while holding impersonal conversations with old people. One-liners like “You know how many times a man has threatened me?” make me roll my eyes. I’m pretty sure your girlfriend — Fran, played by Eiza González —knows what it’s like, Marla. Not to say every woman should have to experience this in order to understand this statement, but all women do understand. We’re not educating other women on the patriarchal system, are we? Unfortunately, it seems like we are.
Marla Grayson introduces this movie with a monologue that I could have recited by heart. “We’re all either two types of people in this world…” and she’s of course a predator. Pike compares the two characters of Amy Dunne and Marla Grayson to say that Marla is “scrappier” than Dunne and I can see that. She’s all about the money, she wants to win, and her plans are less about the meticulous journey than the end result. But especially as an antihero, the audience needs a little backstory. Why doesn’t Marla care about her mother dying? Who were the two men that made good on their threats? How did she and her partner even get together? And yet, we’re supposed to root for her and care when she’s doing some pretty terrible stuff.
At the beginning of the film, she’s confronted in court by a man who’s outraged that he can no longer see his mother in the care home that Marla conned her new ward of the state into. Granted, the guy is the worst possible sort of man — and I gather it’s no coincidence — as he calls her out by name, spits on her, even wishes rape and murder on her life. Though when we’re finally introduced to our main antagonist — maybe our second antihero of the story — it makes it hard to see where the true justice of it all is coming from.
Roman Lunyov is the leader of the Russian mafia and the next helpless old lady Marla cons is, of course, his mother. Unfortunately, Roman’s character doesn’t even try to be original. Played by “Game of Thrones” star Peter Dinklage, he’s off the grid because he faked his own death via arson. That’s it. The least the writers could have done is given his story a little twist. Maybe Lunyov didn’t have to inherit the title; he could have maybe set the fire himself as he plotted to accumulate more power. For a movie that people are praising for being “edgy” and “daring,” it seemed pretty yawn-worthy to me — a few yawns in fact.
Anyway, when Roman finds out that Marla has his mother, we’re shown a brief glimpse of the underground work he’s involved in. Aside from drugs, it’s assumed that he also deals in sex trafficking. It’s meant to make Roman into this terrible character and yet it felt too “bad-guy cliche” for me. But then we see the way he’s upset over just wanting to have his mother back and we have to wonder — who really is the bad guy here?
There’s no doubt that they’re both terrible people but if the point of the movie is to showcase either, one, billionaires suck or, two, the mafia is bad, then we already know. But if it’s to show how either of these main characters are supposed to be “badasses,” then I just don’t see it.
Comedy? More like a huge joke
I laughed harder at the lack of high stakes in this thriller than anything else in this movie. And if the irony is in the title, then that’s the only joke they’ve got going for them. Other than that, it missed the mark for me. For one, it was incredibly unrealistic. At the climax of the movie, Marla is about to die. She doesn’t seem to care or be bothered by this fact but before they throw her into her car, they drug her by sticking a tube up her nose. To make it seem like it was an accident, they put her in the car with a bottle of alcohol and send her over a ledge into the water. At the last second, she wakes up, steps on the brakes, and then somehow breaks the glass of the car and climbs out of the water. They don’t explain away the fact that she had been drugged and woke up in a matter of minutes or how she broke car glass underwater in nothing but her sneakers but you know, we’re supposed to use our imaginations for this part. I guess.
On that same note, the thrill just doesn’t pack a punch. Roman is supposed to be this scary mafia boss and instead, he sits in a chair with cheesy dialogue threatening to kill her but never actually does. And even when he tries, he fails. Then, in the end, Marla and Fran (who also miraculously wakes up in three seconds after laying in a house with gas on for who knows how long) create a plan to get back at Roman. So Marla dons a disguise, finds him as he’s leaving his office building, tasers everyone and then kidnaps Roman in his own car. I’m sorry, but if a crime lord is able to elude the police for over 40 years, how is it that two young women can take him down and all of his security on their own? In a matter of hours. Only one person dies in the entire first part of the movie and nothing else really happens. This has to be one of the lowest-stakes thrillers I’ve ever seen.
Conservatorship and Conservatives
I see what this movie is trying to do … sort of. The guy — the one from the beginning of the movie — comes out wearing a red and black hat that looks suspiciously like a MAGA hat from the front and represents every woman’s worst nightmare: a man calling her the B-word. But honestly, it doesn’t get any more dramatic than that. Now that’s not to say that the stuff he was saying isn’t disgusting or not relevant. But the lack of nuance in these conversations makes the fact that this movie was written by a man trying to write to the female perspective all too obvious.
Now I don’t know much about conservatorship, but this movie certainly doesn’t help. Pike thanked America’s broken legal system for inspiring the film, and Collider reaffirmed this by saying that “The only reason Marla can have this hustle is because there’s a loophole in the American legal and healthcare system that allows her to do this. She’s not breaking the law.” Which is fine except we don’t get much of that in the actual film. We see much of the conning in the beginning and the abuse of poor Jennifer Peterson (Roman’s mother) in the care center and then that’s it: no other background on conservatorship and the actual harm it does to the elderly. Sure we talk about the way people abuse them — lawyers, inheritors, even caretakers — but the conversation isn’t continued throughout the rest of the film, which muddles the whole theme of the movie in its poorly constructed plot.
“What was the reason?” says Cardi B and honestly, I’m asking the same thing. Maybe if the movie didn’t try so hard to be edgy and cool and feminine. Maybe if they had a better bad guy and fewer plot holes. Maybe if they simply followed the theme of conservatorship and actually told a joke or two I could have gotten it. But “I Care a Lot” was simply bad, boring and unoriginal. But I love Rosamund Pike so maybe watch “Gone Girl” instead. This movie fits right into the era.