I Care a Lot (2020)

[7.5]

Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) gives a powerhouse performance as a ruthless, court-appointed legal guardian who preys upon her elderly wards, draining their savings and selling off their assets for her own financial gain. But she finally meets her match in an elderly woman (Dianne Wiest) with a mysterious past whose dangerous acquaintance (Peter Dinklage) threatens to topple the profiteering empire Pike has built for herself.

I Care A Lot is a pitch-black comedy, a thriller, and a character study of a fiercely determined opportunist. The first third of the story is absolutely horrifying as Pike’s character, who also narrates the film, demonstrates with icy cold nonchalance how she conspires with doctors, nursing homes, and the courts to lock away unwilling old folks — many of whom are still very much in control of their faculties. You start to hate this monstrous woman very quickly. You root for Dianne Wiest’s character, as she’s literally drugged up, liberated of her phone, and locked away in a retirement home. When Dinklage’s character enters the story, I Care a Lot becomes a thrilling clash of the titans, with Pike and her new adversary one-upping each other in increasingly deadly entanglements.

Writer/director J. Blakeson succeeds in crafting a page-turner and a compelling character in Pike’s self-proclaimed “lioness.” As immoral as she is, you end up rooting for her as she tries to survive Dinklage’s wrath without compromising her “win at all costs” mentality. She’s humanized considerably in her romantic relationship with Eiza González, but not enough to pull her from the caste of villain. My biggest problem with the movie is that it tries to paint Pike as a feminist warrior after already establishing her as a despicable con artist. You start to wonder what kind of murky moral waters this movie’s trying to pull you into.

The film is entertaining enough to set its confounding moral underpinnings aside for a while, but those chickens come home to roost in a problematic ending that tries to satisfy everyone in every way. One of the endings, I think, is perfect for the film. That it’s not the only ending lessens the impact of the movie. Even still, I Care A Lot is so original and polished, it’s certainly worth a look for anyone who doesn’t mind their protagonists on the shady side. Pike is Oscar-worthy, while Wiest and Dinklage make solid supporting turns. The crisp cinematography and electronic score are also highlights.

With Chris Messina, Alicia Witt, and Isaiah Whitlock Jr.