“You can’t convince a woman to do what you want? You call her a bitch and you threaten to kill her.” This quote, taken from J Blakeson’s dark comedy thriller I Care A Lot, could just as easily slot into Gone Girl – such are the similarities between the two films: they both star Rosamund Pike on tremendous form, they both have her playing a scorned woman, and they both make us watch as her complex plan quickly unravels.
Pike plays Marla Grayson – an unforgiving con woman making a small fortune by convincing judges to appoint her as the legal guardian to elderly people who, according to Marla, cannot take care of themselves. This is a lie, of course – and she quietly pockets as much of the OAPs’ money as possible while the scam lasts. Eventually, she runs into trouble when her latest target, the seemingly sweet-natured Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest), proves more switched on than the rest.
Marla is defined by an acerbic wit and sociopathic ruthlessness when it comes to her business. She’s working alongside her girlfriend Fran (Eiza González), whose moral compass seems marginally more level-headed, and the pair gleefully rob the rich to finance their glamorous lifestyle. They believe that, in America, if you don’t take from others, the world will sooner or later take everything from you.
It’s a sharp concept, delivered with whip-smart dialogue and entertaining performances, but I Care A Lot runs out of steam when it relies on a few familiar clichés. The mention of large sums of money soon leads to the Russian mafia getting involved, which feels too easy for a film that, until that point, seemed so self-aware of the usual tropes of the con movie. It’s a treat to see a woman take the reins, and not just any woman: Pike plays Marla with the same fury and determination as she did Amy Dunne in David Fincher’s Gone Girl, who had planned out a meticulous scheme of revenge against her bumbling husband, played by Ben Affleck.
Both Marla and Amy spend a lot of time thinking about retribution, and rarely consider the emotional fallout of their actions. In Gone Girl, this approach resulted in one of the most fascinating female anti-heroines for a long time, but in I Care A Lot Pike’s character is drawn more thinly and Marla fails to convince as a believable person. There’s the bite in her delivery, the glint in her eye, but little in the way of backstory. Why is she doing all of this? Who hurt her so much?
In the end, there’s no easy resolutions and the film avoids a simplistic ending that would see the #girlboss take over the world. It’s fun while it’s on – but it’s also difficult to think Marla is ever really that invested in her own fate. And if she isn’t, then why should we be?
- Director: J Blakeson
- Starring: Rosamund Pike, Peter Dinklage, Eiza González
- Release date: February 19 (Amazon Prime Video)