Black comedies are supposed to be mean. That’s baked into the genre cake. However, they’re also supposed to be funny. I Care a Lot goes heavy on the meanness but skimps on the humor, resulting in something deeply unpleasant. Whereas the intent was something satirical of capitalism, we instead just get a wildly mean-spirited piece of business that is wholly unenjoyable to watch. Even some strong acting can’t shield you from the gross nature of what’s on display. Out of nowhere, what should have been a solid mix of comedy, crime, and thriller instead has managed to be one of my least favorite viewing experiences in about a year. It’s truly a misfire, one I did not enjoy a second of.
I Care a Lot not only isn’t funny, it never gets you to root for its protagonist. You only feel contempt for their heinous actions, and that’s not a winning formula. Had she been presented as a villain, that’s one thing, but she’s the hero here. It never works, not even a little bit. The movie makes that misguided gambit and it never can course correct from there.
Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike) worships money, and has landed on an epic moneymaking scheme, one that’s perfectly legal, if wholly immoral. Along with her partner and lover Fran (Eiza González), Marla works as a professional, court-appointed guardian for her elderly wards. Often working in cahoots with crooked doctors or retirement home managers, she acquires these marks, seizes their assets and bilks them for tons of money for years on end, all through questionable but legal means. The con is going strong when Marla sees a potential golden goose in Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest). She’s rich, has no family, and is a perfect candidate for her. As you might imagine, it doesn’t turn out that simple.
It turns out that Jennifer is not quite alone in this world, as she’s quite missed by Roman (Peter Dinklage) a dangerous figure. When a little pressure and potential bribery doesn’t work, Roman turns up the heat on Marla. Thus begins a battle of two immovable and immoral objects, with destruction lying in their wake.
Rosamund Pike received a Golden Globe nomination for her work here. Sure, she’s pretty good, but it’s in service of something terrible. Her character is an unrepentant monster who learns nothing. That’s a hard protagonist to root for, and you’re clearly meant to root for her. She’s never developed as a character either, just existing as this lizard-like evil genius. Pike puts some zest into the role, but it’s a losing proposition. Peter Dinklage is solidly menacing, but has a similar issue to Pike. Then, there’s people like Eiza González and Dianne Wiest, who are completely wasted. Supporting players include Macon Blair, Chris Messina, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Alicia Witt, Damian Young, and more.
Filmmaker J Blakeson is to blame here, crafting a nauseating premise that he seems to delight in. Not only is his screenplay reveling in this awfulness, his direction is hollow. Plus, there’s no sense of pacing here. Running nearly two hours, given this thin plot, is completely inexcusable. Blakeson seems to think that I Care a Lot is firing on all cylinders, and it certainly isn’t. In fact, barring Dinklage and especially Pike, this would be an absolute vacuum of any positivity at all.
I Care a Lot wants to satirize guardianship in a black comedy for Netflix. It fails miserably. For me, it’s the worst of 2021, so far. I’m very much in the minority, but that’s me. It drops on the streaming service tomorrow, so if you’re curious, give it a look. Just know that it decidedly does not have my recommendation, in the slightest.