I care a lot was written and directed by J Blakeson, starring Rosamund Pike as Marla Grayson, a crooked and ruthless legal guardian who has made a very successful scam of leeching the savings out of her elderly wards, until she goes after a target she shouldn’t have; also starring Peter Dinklage and Eiza Gonzalez. After I became aware of this movie, I was really excited to see it, in particular for what seemed like an excitingly different performance from Pike, but also because Blakeson had written and directed The Disappearance of Alice Creed, a seriously underrated crime drama, and this seemed to have a lot of potential. Thankfully, it delivers on a lot of aspects and I enjoyed it a lot; the first and second acts were some of the best filmmaking I’ve seen all year and maybe in recent memory, however the last act stumbles heavily and seriously harm the experience. It’s not bad enough that it demolishes all the good will it built and I do think this is a great movie overall, but it is severe enough that it left me with a bittersweet feeling and its one of those occasions where I’m sad that its only great and not anything more.
To start with, this is by far my favorite role of Pike; she freaking nails it and is most of the reason this movie works. Her character is a despicable, ruthless, fearless, immoral, cold-hearted, success-driven, corporate scumbag, yet Pike’s charisma and enjoyment of portraying such outlandishly evil character makes her addictive to watch; she makes a character that literally robs old people likeable to watch, but without removing any of the legitimate fear she instils or the nefariousness of her scams. On the other hand, Peter Dinklage does something very similar with his character to also just as impressive of an effect; he plays a ruthless character who is quirkier and a lot more deadly than Marla, but he also manages to ground such a ridiculous character and make him dangerous without loosing any of the charm and quirkiness he needs to have.
As you might have guessed, I care a lot has a lot of unlikeable characters doing a lot of bad things, and that is actually one of the better parts of the movie, because it clearly has a lot of subtext specifically about that; how the system protects these people, how easy for them it is to manipulate society and laws to their own benefit, and how such individuals are rewarded for that behavior. What it does even better though is make the viewing of these hideous deeds be extremely entertaining; from Pike’s dastardly tricks and strong bander, to Gonzalez’s wide-eyed adoration and prodigy status for robbing grandmas out of their pensions, the movie is very energetic and brisk-paced, bringing the audience for a ride. Pacing in particular is a big highlight of mine; the movie will go from court room to office to plan for scam, execute scam, deal with repercussions within the first act, and that is just the beginning. It also goes for the hyper-stylized, vibrant-neon colors and synth soundtrack route, and for the most part I liked it. All of that, mixed in with a decent storyline that explores some themes really well, remains consistent in its characterization, and overall begins, builds, and concludes in a satisfying way, it all adds up to a great experience.
However, as I’ve said before there are some issues that keep me from raising the praise even higher; mostly, it has to do with the last act and a few nitpicks here and there that stick out when compared to the quality of the rest movie. Firstly, there are some themes that the movie brings up and doesn’t really do anything with, like Marla really hating men who try to threaten her or see her gender as a reason to look down on her; obviously, that is a good reason to hate someone, but that is what Marla thinks, but is clearly causing that reaction through her dubious acts, yet the movie only makes good on that (if you read into things like I do) in the literal final scene. Moreover, there are some editing decision I seriously disliked like cutting a car scene like a trailer (quick cuts to black and muting the soundtrack), and a montage scene that feels like the movie ran out of money and needed to convey some information, rather than a stylistic choice.
Mostly though, my big problem with the movie is the entire third act, which comes after one of the strongest ends to a second act of the year so far; it’s like they didn’t know how to follow up from that and decided to make a pseudo-revenge thriller in the vein of a heist movie. It felt more like James Bond rather than Jordan Belfort, and given how the movie was constantly one upping itself, it felt very underwhelming and disappointing that the final act ended up as it did. Still, the actual ending was the one that felt more ‘right’ and the moment actually felt very powerful and that excellence from the first two acts snuck back in for a couple of moments before ending the movie all together.
In the end, I care a lot is a great movie that is mostly so much more than great; its an excellent crime drama, with lots of ideas and it constructively explores a few of them through lots of style (and substance) and dark comedy. However, the final act is so average and disappointing (compared to what came before), that it unfortunately drags down the overall quality to great; that’s not a bad place to be and most movies would kill to be there, but it was riding so much higher before that ending, that I can’t help but feel a bit let down. Still, one of the best I’ve seen this year and probably going to rank very high on my end of the year list.