Premiering with plenty of buzz at Toronto International Film Festival back in 2020, Amazon Prime Video has scooped up the UK rights to I Care a Lot, a gripping and subversive look at the exploitative nature of the American healthcare system. With the legal concept of court-appointed conservatorships currently in the US news following the release of the Framing Britney Spears documentary, this feels like a timely and really rather disconcerting mirror.
Written and directed by J Blakeson, I Care a Lot centres on professional con-woman Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike), who’s strive to achieve the American dream comes at the expense of her many elderly wards. With the help of her business partner and lover Fran (Eiza González), she targets marks who are wealthy, own property and have a decent pension pot to siphon off once she legally seizes their assets. However her latest ‘prospect’, wealthy retiree Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest), isn’t quite the easy payload she initially expected, as the older woman has her own shady connections which threaten Marla’s lucrative hustle.
I Care a Lot is an unnerving and deliciously dark thriller full of twists and turns which will keep you gripped throughout. This is one of the boldest films of the year yet, with an intriguingly hard to pin down central narrative. There’s touches of the con artist/hustler genre, complete with brutal gangsters and a dash of black comedy. On paper this shouldn’t really work, particularly as the majority of the characters are just so despicable and the topic so distressing, yet somehow it does. Perhaps this is in part due to the success of the witty and assured script from writer-director J Blakeson, which features a sharp commentary on American capitalism and their broken health system which so often puts profit over people.
The sublime Rosamund Pike heads up an impressively talented ensemble, bringing a similarly cold and calculated angle to the role as Gone Girl’s Amy Dunne. The professional ‘guardian’ is ruthlessly driven and hugely ambitious, opening the film with one of the boldest narrations yet. “There’s lions and lambs in this world,” she says, “I’m not a lamb. I am a f*cking lioness.” Her and her partner’s unscrupulous acts are almost worse than those of Dinklage’s brilliantly unhinged mob boss, with the duo subsequently going head-to-head in an entertaining and at times violent battle over their latest “cherry”.
One potential flaw of the film however is the fact that it’s difficult to root for any of the protagonists due to their dastardly acts, but with such committed and audacious performances from the cast, you’re somehow hooked in to the ensuing thrill-ride. Pike completely demands your attention, stealing pretty much every scene she’s in, complete with a fantastically colourful wardrobe of suits and sharp haircut. She shares an intense dynamic with co-star Dinklage, and it’s fascinating to watch the two trade blows (both physically and legally). It’s also exciting to see the return of the Game of Thrones star to the big screen, as he brings an unpredictability to the role, nicely juxtaposing Pike’s calculated nature. Chris Messina also pops up in a brief but surprisingly menacing turn, following Birds of Prey.
Featuring a career-best performance from Rosamund Pike, coupled with a truly unpredictable and exhilarating narrative, it’s easy to see why I Care a Lot received such a lot of festival buzz. Perhaps it’s best to watch something a little lighter afterwards to restore your faith in humanity though!