Rosamund Pike isn’t necessarily your run-of-the-mill villain. With her golden blonde bob and sophisticated array of accents, she’s more suited to your classic English rose-type leading lady. Her star-making and Oscar-winning turn as the psychopathic and scorned Amy Dunne in 2014’s Gone Girl, however, begged the long-overdue question: why can’t she be both? Since then, she’s run with this balancing act. In I Care A Lot, Pike exquisitely showcases her ability to both enchant and terrify her audience.
I Care A Lot, written and directed by J Blakeson (also known for Kidnapping Stella and The 5th Wave), is essentially another vehicle for Pike to be completely and delightfully deranged. The plot follows Pike, a con artist posing as a professional guardian of the state-deemed incapacitated elderly, as she dives to new moral lows and shockingly debased actions. Her character, anti-hero Marla Grayson, becomes tied up with the Russian mob after a guardianship fraud goes awry, and she subsequently fights for her life and livelihood as a career fraudster.
The film opens with an Amy Dunne-esque voiceover, and Grayson coldly lays out the facts of the world (an almost corny attempt at mimicking Gillian Flynn’s script). According to Grayson, there are only two types of people—you’re either “a lion or a lamb”—and Grayson thinks of herself as a “fucking lioness.” Right away, the audience becomes aware of the similarities between Pike’s characters in I Care A Lot and Gone Girl, but however intentional or unintentional the similarities may be, they end up taking away from the quality of the film as a whole.
Pike’s performance, as usual, is perfection. This might actually be the best acting she’s done since Gone Girl, but that’s not where the issues of this film lie. Despite having one of the stronger casts of the year (Peter Dinklage, Dianne Wiest, Eiza González) and a remarkably innovative take on crime, I Care A Lot sets viewers up for a Gone Girl-level plot, but ultimately lets them down with a basic mobster arc that bores. If not for the impeccable acting on Pike’s part, the entire film would probably be another forgettable crime comedy lost to time (see Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant!). Pike’s performance is the one of the main reasons why I Care A Lot works as well as it does, but there’s another star too: style.
For some reason—that probably has to do with Pike’s own acting clout—Marla Grayson is perhaps one of the smoothest, most stylish protagonists on the market. From tailored pant suits and chic Italian sneakers to classically cool Ray-Bans and a severe microbob, every scene she’s in feels suave and almost pathologically immaculate—speaking volumes to both her character’s state of mind and general outlook on life.
It’s not even necessarily limited to the way Grayson dresses. Rather, her every move—be it business-related or personal—is characterized by a frightening level of confidence and display of aggression. These emotions are best displayed when she goes head-to-head in a bidding war with a Russian mob boss over the life of his dearly beloved mother. While the plot isn’t necessarily engrossing, the comedy of the script is at times genius. In a scene where antagonist Roman Lunyov (Dinklage) has Grayson tied to a chair making an elevator pitch for her life, he punches her squarely in the jaw.
Instead of squealing or even crying out, Grayson merely sits back up and looks at him as if he were an old friend or a dueling partner, rolls her eyes, and says, “Jesus Christ, man.” It’s a moment that simultaneously defines the future of her character and reinforces to the audience why they like her so much, while somehow also eliciting humor.
I Care A Lot has legs. It’s got an excellent lead, a good enough script, and a quietly impressive supporting cast, but without Pike as Grayson, it just wouldn’t be the same film. It might not be Gone Girl, but Pike’s solid performance raises the bar for this heist film.
Photo Courtesy of Netflix