If you thought Rosamund Pike couldn’t get any crazier after her completely unhinged performance in 2014’s Gone Girl, think again. I Care a Lot is my favorite film I’ve seen from Pike’s filmography, a dark and gutsy cat-and-mouse thriller where the leverage is our healthcare system itself. The commentary never feels heavy-handed or exploitative, with a bold conclusion that really hammers home the film’s ultimate stance.
Marla (Rosamund Pike) is a scheming caregiver who makes a living off the elderly. With a conveyor-belt of powerful people involved, Marla forcibly inserts the old folks into nursing homes where she can milk them for money: she sells all their assets, leeching until the well dries up and they pass away. Used to getting everything she wants with little legal pushback, Marla finally meets her match when she goes to fill a newly open empty spot. Described as “just your regular old lady” with no debt, spouse, children, or criminal record, Jennifer (Dianne Wiest) seems like the ideal candidate for Marla’s newest “cherry” cash cow but it quickly becomes apparent there’s more to Jennifer than meets the eye…
The layers of this film peel apart slowly like the layers of an onion, with more intrigue and surprising twists in every slice. Just when you think you know where it’s headed, the crazy turns and pivots wash away the predictability inherent in many thrillers. Once Peter Dinklage’s character Roman becomes involved, a constant power struggle between him and Marla erupts that the movie takes full advantage of. None of the tense banter and pulse-pounding suspense would be as effective without the timely script and frenetic direction. With crackling dialogue that highlights some of the darker humor, this becomes a very singular vision from writer/director J Blakeson.
The characters are unlikable across the board with few exceptions, which under normal circumstances could be a detriment. Despite this, I Care A Lot miraculously forces the viewer to root for even the most vile human beings. Pike’s Marla is vindictive, controlling, and determined even as she begins to face very real consequences for her heinous actions. Dinklage’s Roman is awful in a different kind of way, equally determined and trying desperately to outsmart Marla as she undermines him around every bend. Robbed of her phone and freedoms, Dianne Wiest’s Jennifer is probably the film’s most sympathetic character.
Beyond the film’s commentary of our corrupt healthcare system, I Care A Lot leaves you with a lingering message about the cost of fame and success. Money can’t truly buy happiness, or can it? Pike and Dinklage have never been better, with Pike in particular giving the defining performance of her career. For fans of twisty thrillers like Promising Young Woman or Gone Girl, this could be your new favorite movie. I Care A Lot is streaming now on Netflix.