I Care A Lot (Review)
Someone should check to see if #RosamundPike is a Stepford Wife. No one has been better at playing chilling, calculating, deplorable characters then Ms. Pike in "Gone Girl" and now in J. Blakeson's "I Care A Lot." When she looks at you one can feel the ice flowing through her veins. This is the best villain of the year and she drives this film.
The scam Marla Grayson (Ms. Pike) comes up with is stomach churning and hard to watch, primarily because the possibilities of it happening are all too real. She searches for single elderly people and bends the system, with a less then attentive judge, so that she's put in charge of their care. When she checks them into a living facility she bleeds them dry from their assets. She's riding smooth until she hooks the wrong fish.
That fish, or more like a shark, is Jennifer Peterson played by an American treasure #DianeWiest. When conversation turns to great American actors its usually men who are mentioned- DeNiro, Pacino, Washington. Ms. Wiest is a grave omission. She adds credibility and entertainment in everything she's in. "I Care A Lot" is no exception. There is a sense of mystery surrounding Ms. Peterson. She's your typical retiree living comfortably next door but when the routine breaks her suppressed personality begins to leak out raising the temperature of the film.
And talking about great American actors there was a lot of fanfare when #DeNiro and #Pacino were brought together in "Heat." Ms. Pike and Ms. Wiest rival anything those two actors have done in the same space. The electricity and mystery builds when these two hustlers spar. Ms. Pike's character is as unlikeable as anything created on screen but that melts when she's confronted with someone who may bring her to ruin. Their scenes slide the viewer closer to the edge of their seats and launch the drama forward.
Mr. Blakeson, who also wrote the screenplay, has come up with some memorable characters. Non more then the link that gives Jennifer Peterson her power, Roman Lunyov, played by the uncanny #PeterDinklage. Mr. Dinklage brings menace and mystery in ways never imagined before and wraps it up in indelible nuances. Mr. Blakeson was able to accomplish a tricky feat by making Ms. Pike's despicable character find the audience's sympathy. But once he establishes this feat, it slowly begins to unravel and so to the story's appeal.
It begins with a mysterious lawyer, Chris Messina (as I mentioned in an earlier review, totally underused and brilliant here), who visits Marla and suggests that she put Ms. Peterson back where she found her. The trouble begins, for the viewer, when the credibility of this lawyer who is supposed to represent a mysterious client with a hint of danger turns out to be less then competent. He doesn't once hold the upper hand with Marla and is easily confounded by her. This has nothing to do with how Mr. Messina plays him but how Mr. Blakeson wrote the character and the scene. And its unfortunate since it releases the tension it worked hard to build.
The other gaff is the disappearance of Ms. Wiest during the second half of the film. Her scenes with Ms. Pike were so pleasurable and their characters so intertwined I was salivating for more of the same. Unfortunately, the story moved away from the Wiest character. So to went the mystery and mood. Instead it turned into an action film and left me yearning for other possibilities.
The movie loses some of its power but none of its acceleration. Mr. Blakeson did create a cinematic anti-hero for the ages in Marla Grayson, memorably embodies by Ms. Pike. And the question toward the ending was how to leave such a character when her whole being is an attack on the decency of which human beings are taught to behave. Mr. Blakeson took a path seen by two other icons, Mr. Pacino and Daniel Craig, from two of their epochal films. "I Care A Lot" doesn't lose pace but it does lose a well crafted mood. But it won't make for a dull viewing.