Review by Sean Boelman
J Blakeson’s darkly comedic thriller I Care a Lot seems at first glance like one of those true stories that’s so crazy it couldn’t be true, but in this case, it isn’t. Offering plenty of wacky fun and some interesting satire, but missing the authenticity that would have made it click emotionally, it’s a slightly overlong but still mostly entertaining watch.
The film follows a woman who, working as a state-appointed legal guardian for those retirees without family and who are unable to care for themselves, exploits her wards, soon catching the ire of a gangster with an interest in one of her elderly clients. It’s a unique story packed with unexpected twists and turns, allowing it to fulfill even the most demanding of genre fans.
There is definitely an initial level of intrigue thanks to the bizarre premise, but this wears out as viewers become more and more comfortable within this world. And there’s some absolutely bonkers stuff happening in the final act. But that stretch of about twenty to thirty minutes that comes in the middle feels a lot slower than the rest.
Additionally, the movie doesn’t deal in subtlety. There are some really interesting ideas here about the way in which America’s healthcare system is flawed, the way in which the laws intended to help the most vulnerable of the population actually hurt them, and how greed can destroy oneself, but all of these themes, particularly the latter, are explored front-and-center.
That said, the film still largely works thanks to the unique character development. The lines between protagonist and antagonist are blurred as the movie really questions who it is with which the audience is supposed to identify. And though narration from the scheming guardian does firmly establish that it is her story to tell, this is really the only area in the film in which any ambiguity could be found.
Rosamund Pike’s performance here is excellent, showing that she is a talented actress as long as she is given challenging material and not awards-bait biopics. She wonderfully captures the darkly humorous aspects of the storyline. And in the supporting cast, Peter Dinklage and Chris Messina are both hilarious as some of the personalities with which Pike’s character clashes along the way.
There’s a lot of flashiness to the movie, and this stylized nature is a big part of what makes it so much fun, not just to watch, but to look at. The costumes are particularly memorable, which is a pleasant surprise, the splashes of color in the clothing going a long way to lend the film an infectious sense of energy.
Although there are a few weak moments, I Care a Lot is quite an enjoyable movie, with notable efforts all-around from the cast and crew. It could have been even better had writer-director J Blakeson taken things to a greater extreme, but it’s still very good nonetheless.
I Care a Lot screened as a part of the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival which runs September 10-19 and offers a blend of in-person and virtual (geoblocked to Canada) screenings.