If you’ve been looking for a movie that will thoroughly piss you off, I Care a Lot is definitely that movie. There are very few movies out there that show you how despicable a character is and then try to make you feel bad for them over and over again. The film presents a character who repeatedly proves how evil and manipulative they are while acting completely normal in their personal life. In this case, Maria Grayson, played by the phenomenal Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), is that character, and you will spend the entire movie waiting for her to get what she deserves.
The story follows Maria Grayson, a legal guardian for the elderly who has figured out a nearly flawless system to drain the finances of her wards while keeping them in care facilities and away from their families. Along with the help of her wife Fran (Eiza Gonzalez), a sleazy care facility owner, and a doctor who helps Maria choose her future targets and help get them deemed unfit to live alone. Once they have been placed in the care facility, Maria and Fran sell off their homes and assets and keep the money. You get the picture that Maria and Fran have been successfully running this con for a while and have dozens of wards under their “care.” That is until they find their first “cherry,” or a potential ward with no living family and a lot of money.
This “cherry” is Jennifer Peterson (played by Dianne Wiest) and although she seems to be the perfect victim for Maria, things aren’t exactly what they seem. As Maria drains Jennifer’s home and assets, she discovers a safe deposit box with diamonds that are worth more than Maria has ever seen before. Meanwhile, a man (Peter Dinklage) is waiting for his mother to show up to their weekly meeting and she never shows. It turns out, Jennifer does have family and this family has very powerful friends. When Jennifer tries to tell Maria that she should really rethink this whole situation, Maria doesn’t care and continues on with her usual scheme. This would be the biggest mistake of Maria’s life.
The “friends” of Jennifer begin to reveal themselves to Maria in the form of a detestable lawyer and a few henchmen. These people show Maria how powerful Jennifer’s family is and what violent lengths they’ll go through to get her out. Even when the henchmen break into the care facility and shoot their way out only to be caught by the police, Maria still doesn’t see a reason to stop. It isn’t until the situation becomes far more violent that Maria and Fran are pushed into a corner and given a decision on what to do next.
Whether you have a close relationship with your grandparents or older relatives or you just love and respect the elderly, this movie will make you increasingly mad as you watch Maria trick and rob countless senior citizens, the despicability of which is elevated by Pike’s amazing performance. Pike brings a brutally realistic portrayal of Maria, disappearing into the role. This causes a bit of a moral dilemma for some viewers while watching the film, as every ounce of your being wants Maria to get what she deserved after all the horrible things she did to all of her victims, or “wards” as she’d describe. But, as the film unravels, they frame Maria and Fran sympathetically. The film pulls this off in such a way that unwary viewers might find themselves championing Maria until the film snaps back to her brutality, and reminds you who she will always be.
It wasn’t just Pike that gave an unforgettable performance in this film. Eiza Gonzalez (Baby Driver, Alita: Battle Angel) gives a great performance as Maria’s wife Fran, who follows her as a partner in life and a partner in crime until the bitter end. You can tell how much Maria genuinely loves Fran and how much of a strong trust they have in each other even when working their schemes. As far as the “villain” of this film, although I guess he’s really not the villain depending on how you look at the story, Peter Dinklage gives a great performance and can be truly frightening when he wants to be. Although I loved the cast choices and the story, I wasn’t as impressed with some of the directing choices. Director J. Blakeson chose standout transitions and over-the-top montages to create flair in the edit, but interrupt the pacing throughout. These are stylistic touches that really only work in favor of the final minutes of the film. The story would be often feel interrupted by the juxtaposition of some of these fillers, and the final film would have flowed more from not having.
Viewers should know that when the first line of the film is the main character making fun of you for thinking you’re a good person, it’s probably not going to be a fun and happy film. I Care a Lot, however, is a film that knows it’s about an irredemably bad person, and exercises your ability to try and pretend they can be some sort of hero. The casting allows the film at its most excellent moments to be truly engrossing, and made Maria’s story someone believable. There is no doubt that Rosamund Pike deserves the recognition she has gotten from this film. Although it may enrage some viewers and tempt them to turn this film off in moments of loathing hatred, we promise you, I Care A Lot worth sticking to until the very end.