“I CARE A LOT” IS EVERYTHING YOU EXPECTED: UNREMARKABLE
The film is almost too aware of itself and anxious with the need to be smart.
Every so often there is a film that attempts to reinvent the traditional depiction of the motivation to achieve the American dream: the house, kids, money, a good job, and maybe a dog. And just as often, these renditions end up banal and stiff. To be fair, it’s hard to really take a new angle on such an old adage so with this consideration, I Care a lot had a lot to live up to. Essentially, it’s not so surprising that it fell short of expectations.
I Care a lot, Netflix’s 2020 thriller comedy by writer and director J Blakeson, is absolutely unexceptional but it was so promising. The movie is wholly about how the pursuit of money doesn’t have to be linear, proposing that working hard to eventually be compensated in abundance, doesn’t necessarily yield what you are actually owed unless, you take it by force. It suggests that there’s room for creativity, even deviousness in the pursuit of financial bliss. In this case, the path is rooted in exploiting the failure in government oversight for elderly care homes, which often leave the elderly vulnerable to predators. The predator here, Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike), is a seasoned caretaker who is artful at securing guardianships over various seniors with little support communities through a scheming and complex plan which exploits the government’s intention to provide care and agency to seniors. She does all this while weaponizing respectability politics and the penchant to condescend the threatening capability of women to only nurturing qualities. I Care a lot is basically about Grayson’s ruthlessness, how effective (or not) it is, but also, how distracting it can be.
Still, with all these considerations, it would be dishonest to present the film as anything but bland. It is unfortunately, so predictable, every twist passes with little impact. Worse, Blakeson’s Grayson is basically just a Gone Girl Amy Dunne copycat but extremely sloppy and lucky (for the most part). It’s a bit disappointing because the very beginning of the movie is overwhelmingly bleak, incredibly depressive and heart breaking, making the movie initially primed to be a horror. Then the entire harsh and miserable tone is derailed for unbearable cheesiness, marking Grayson’s success as implausible.
Unlike Amy, Grayson isn’t especially skilled, she has no redeeming qualities or characteristics that make her agreeable, and the only trait she holds is persistence to win. She’s not as methodical, her motivation is also disturbingly damaging and selfish, so it difficult to understand how to make sense of her incredible fortune to somehow defeat every barrier in her path. There are many references in the film to her staunch feminist identity, used to almost broach the hypocrisy within the movement but, like Cruella de Vil’s narcissism, her feminist identity is poorly misdirected, even though it’s apparent that it’s meant to be satirical. The film is almost too aware of itself and anxious with the need to be smart. This problem in design is rippled repeatedly throughout Grayson’s characterization, such that, she has very little force as an Amy caricature and all her achievements feel unconvincing. More, the fact that Grayson is unappealing in the entire film, coupled with the overpowering use of clichés and dull plot twists, make her journey insufferable to watch.
Part of the reason why the viewing experience is so agonizing is because it could have been really good. For one, Blakeson could have afforded Grayson a degree of likability or at least tempered her rigid ruthless to make her a bit more relatable. Also, it would have served the story better to balance against her stubborn ruthlessness by creating a disconcerting atmosphere, befitting her bleak presence because at it stands, she feels misplaced, like a dry, lethal weapon, perfectly primed for a serious thriller, but out-of-place in a comedy. It just doesn’t work. It’s actually quite surprising that I Care a lot is slated as a comedy at all because there is very little humor in the film. Sure, there is a tinge of dark comedy but it stumbles and is mostly made redundant by the fact that the funny moments are quickly glossed over in favor of Grayson’s unrelenting malice.
It’s true, not every film is required to capture depth and meaning. I Care a lot is certainly one of those light films intended to gain mass appeal but it actually robs viewers of the blockbuster thriller energy it attempts to achieve by striving for some of the sterner themes in Gone Girl but only providing a spineless narrative about a nearly untouchable villain. You’re not missing out on anything if you decide not to watch this one.