I CARE A LOT Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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They care? You won't!
Having watched this film in the wake of Rosamund Pike's surprise best actress win at this year's Golden Globes, I've pondered long on a positive angle to approach this review. I'm not sure I can find much of one. It's not that I Care A Lot is a bad film per se. Pike and her main co-star Peter Dinklage are both very good in their roles and thanks to its strong cast the film keeps you with it to the end, but the aftereffect you're left with is having watched a movie that is so vapid in both story and its characters, with the latter being all entirely irredeemably awful, that it leaves me wondering why a film like this exists?

The underlying theme of I Care A Lot is that everybody, each and everyone of us, is just plain shit. We're all looking out for number one. No compassion for others if it gets in our way to make bank and live the American dream. From the son who won't sell his mothers house to pay for her end of life care so as not to spoil his inheritance, the weary judge who just wants a quick and easy outcome to every case before him so accepts everything at (pretty) face value, not wanting to see he's being manipulated, the owner of the care home who will happily take a side payment to provide a better, or worse, environment for the people in his supposed care, and the woman who is appointed to oversee the care who runs a hustle of a business that drains a lifetime of savings from individuals for her own personal gain.
This is Rosamund Pike's character, Maria Grayson. I guess she's supposed to be an anti-hero? She isn't. Her supposed equal and opposite, if we're talking traditional film-making, is Peter Dinklage's Russain mafia boss Roman Lunyov. He loves his mother but is, as you'd expect, a nasty piece of work, which means there's no protagonist in I Care A lot. Instead everyone is established, and poorly so, to be irredeemably awful, so you find yourself not caring one iota who comes out on top in their bizarre battle of cat and mouse and oneupmanship.

The anti-hero story can be told to great effect, take Breaking Bad for example. The long form narrative works perfectly for this type of arc, so that you can still stay with the character when they commit heinous things, you know their background and intentions, where they've come from and more. Here, in under 2 hours, Pike's Maria gives some opening exposition about being a woman in a man's world and one throwaway line about her relationship with her mother. She just is who she is and we're suppose to go with that. I feel Dinklage's character is a little better realised (and being Dinklage, better performed), as there's some clear intent behind his actions and a driving force for his part of this particular story. He's still a Russian mafia piece of shit, but as much as he values his wealth there are more layers to him than his on-screen nemesis.
Because none of the characters are strongly established enough or at all likeable, it's impossible to care either way about them (maybe deliberately, maybe just ironic given the title), so unlike say Walter White you don't give a damn when their life is in danger, you don't care either way who comes out on top and are left with nobody to root for. Not even the poor old lady who has had her life sold from under her because, guess what, she's a piece of shit too! I do have to hold up my hands and say that Dianne Wiest is very good in this role, and I was left wishing this could've been a different story with her character fighting for freedom against the onslaught of injustice she initially faces. Sadly, I Care A Lot is not that film.

I Care A Lot is supposed to be a dark comedy. I'm really not sure where any of the comedy was. It's so dark you'll need a flashlight to find it, if it's at all there. The only thing I can attribute to this genre tag is that Pike's Maria stops to have a tooth reinserted at a time when it should be the last of her worries (so very self-absorbed in her appearance), she seems to develop superhuman abilities out of nowhere and has access to a whole host of things that would otherwise be implausible for her to lay hands on so quickly. But I Care A Lot doesn't worry itself about triviality like realism so I do not believe any of that was intentionally supposed to be the dark comedy of the piece. More likely it's the social commentary. In a year when 70 million Americans voted for a man who was quite happy to lock children in cages and incite an insurrection but offer the prospect of lower personal taxes, perhaps more people are insular and uncaring than I'd like to believe they are? Solely looking out for number one at the expense of their humanity.
I Care A Lot then is a well acted film. Rosamund Pike's Golden Globe win would probably not happen in a normal year but it isn't unwarranted at all because the main cast members are all great actors and actresses and do their downright best with their respective roles. It's just their characters are all dreadful people and there is not one to connect to on any level. No one seemingly gets their comeuppance, until what feels like a tagged-on ending, and so I Care A Lot leaves you in an unsatisfactory place. I do think there was a good idea for a film in here and I wish it had gone down that route instead. Following the battle between someone who had been taken advantage of by Maria, someone who was actually an innocent individual and not just another dreadful person, and populated with the same exceptional ensemble would have been much clearer and satisfying experience. Instead I Care A Lot wants the world to believe that nobody does care, and I don't believe that to be true.

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