Dog’s Movie House: “I Care A Lot” A Nasty Good Time If You’re In The Right Frame Of Mind!

A terrific Rosamund Pike plays Marla Grayson, a professional legal guardian whose stock in trade is actually using immoral and greedy doctors to force seniors into her care where she and her partner Fran (Elza Gonzalez) keep their charges as virtual prisoners while draining their assets and life savings. It’s actually pretty terrifying how plausible this scam is especially for those seniors living on their own. It’s actually more terrifying than any horror movie I’ve ever seen.

Marla and Fran come upon one such senior (or “cherry” as they describe it) in Jennifer Petersen (a terrific Dianne Wiest) a wealthy, independent senior with no family. Marla and Fran do their stuff and soon have Jennifer drugged and are in the process of lining their own pockets when they find out Jennifer isn’t exactly who she says she is. Jennifer is the mother of a rather angry Russian mobster (superbly played by Peter Dinklage, wearing one of the most impressive beards I’ve ever seen). Thus begins a battle of will that kind of reminds of a more violent, less domestic “War Of The Roses.”

This film can be problematic for those who want a clean-cut, straight forward hero in there films. Marla is the main character and she is a nasty piece of work and good with it. She even says so in the films opening voice over. She’s very good at playing the system and acting the part of a committed caregiver, but she’s a soulless shell of a human being, a snake on two legs who’s only interested in the payoff.

So you’re going to root for poor old Jennifer, are you? Well that’s problematic because once you find out her true place in the story you find that, in her own way, she’s just as bad as Marla. There’s a certain amount of fun in rooting for the mobster (because it’s Peter Dinklage, of course.) but he’s fairly vicious when it comes to dealing with his enemies. So essentially we have a game of cat and mouse between two characters of varying amounts of unlikability.

That said the script and direction by J Blakeson provide great dialogue and some exciting twists and turns in the story. It’s fun to watch Marla try to use the legal system as a weapon against an adversary who doesn’t give a tinker’s damn about said legal system. The performances are top notch with Pike in fine form as a woman who’s perfectly fine with her amoral nature. There’s no backstory for her, so it would be fascinating to see what environmental conditions had a hand in shaping her predatory personality. One of the interesting traits is that she is openly hostile toward men in particular. Her partner Fran is also her lover and seems to be the only person in the world she cares about. Had the movie had more time it would have been fascinating to see if there was an event that made her who she is. As it stands, she’s just a predatory witch. But Pike has such fun with the role that it’s hard not to enjoy her machinations on a visceral level.

Pike’s matched by Dinklage, one of my favorite actors (even before Game Of Thrones). There is real menace to him along with a side of malevolent charm that makes his character a joy to watch. His small stature doesn’t matter a whit either way. He’s a badass no matter his height and he’s a joy to watch whenever he’s onscreen.

Although the film takes a fairly predictable turn in the end (think the ending of “New Jack City” if you want context) up until that point “I Care A Lot” is quite comfortable in its amoral skin and that’s a pretty brave thing to do. The ending isn’t a cop-out, per se, but it does add a bit of convention to a film that spends most of its time defying it. I found “I Care A Lot” to be a mostly entertaining film with a gleefully nasty edge. It’s not for everyone, but those with an open mind should have a good time with it. 4 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer! So Sayeth The Kendog!

“I Care A Lot” is currently streaming on Netflix.

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