Is there any other actor in the world who combines sexy and chilling with the panache of Rosamund Pike? She’s strikingly beautiful but also brittle so you instinctively understand that beyond the sculpted cheekbones lies a fierce capacity for cruelty. In the first few minutes of I Care A Lot, Pike, playing an unscrupulous legal guardian named Marla Grayson, tells a man who has just spat on her, ‘Having a penis doesn’t automatically make you more scary to me. Just the opposite. You may be a man but if you ever threaten, touch or spit on me again, I will grab your dick and balls and I will rip them clean off.’ What a hero.
Except that Marla isn’t one. She’s a vulture preying on senior citizens – which seems to me a whole new low in movie villainy. Marla runs a successful business as a court-appointed legal guardian. Colluding with a physician and the head of an assisted living facility, Marla schemes to have perfectly sentient older people declared mentally incompetent. The court then puts them in her care and she sucks them dry. Her job gives her a sheen of nobility – early in the film, she tells a judge, with practiced sincerity: All day, every day, I care. But in reality, each ward is, for her, a lottery ticket. She’s in charge of their finances. She’s billing them for the hours that she’s working for them and for the old age home, in which she has shares – you can imagine how that pans out.
Marla and her partner Fran find a target they describe as a cherry because she’s such a perfect victim – rich without family, showing early signs of forgetfulness. Jennifer Peterson, played by a terrific Dianne Wiest, is rushed from her impeccable home to the facility. The utter lack of morals in the film makes for solid entertainment but this sequence is terrifying because it seems so plausible. Jennifer protests but no one is listening. She ends up alone in a room that is basically a luxurious prison. Later in the film, she tells Marla – I’m the worst mistake you’ll ever make.
Writer-director J. Blakeson constructs a deliciously savage cat-and-mouse game in which we are horrified by Marla’s actions but also admiring her steely savagery. Peter Dinklage plays Roman Lunyov, a criminal who, when asked who he is, describes himself as “a dangerous man”. Marla and Roman rip into each other but Marla doesn’t yield an inch. She’s a formidable opponent.
Blakeson also positions Marla as the twisted embodiment of the American dream. Marla is clear that she wants money and lots of it. In one scene, she says she wants enough “to use money as a weapon, as a bludgeon, the way real rich people do.” Wearing killer heels and a high-maintenance bob, Marla feels like the monstrous love child of Catherine Tramell from Basic Instinct and Gordon Gekko from Wall Street. She’s deeply frightening and flat-out fabulous.
I Care a Lot is wholly satisfying. There’s a scene in which Jennifer calls Marla an epithet that I can’t repeat, which made me want to whistle loudly. These toxic people make for delightful company.
You can watch I Care a Lot on Netflix India.