‘I Care A Lot’ is the most popular movie on Netflix right now, but its deep flaws prevent a good idea from getting off the ground.
The Movie: Crime Dramedy – Thriller – Wannabe Social Statement / 2020 Canada – 2021 U.S. / STX Films – Black Bear Pictures
The Beer: Dry-Hopped Pilsner / 5% ABV / Great Raft Brewing – Shreveport, LA
“Don’t be fooled by old people. Even sadistic, immoral assholes get old.”
Of all the things that come out of con artist / professional court order guardian Marla Grayson’s mouth in I Care A Lot. Just released on Netflix and Prime Video, this is the twisted tale of a court-appointed guardian maliciously targeting wealthy old folks for her own financial gain. It’s often aggravating to watch (especially when wondering just how many similarly horrendous people exist in real life) but the only thought that one day Marla Grayson too will get old and hopefully get a brutal taste of her own medicine of kept me watching until the end.
Only that’s not how it ends, and that’s just one thing I wish were different about this movie. But first, the positives. The acting is by far the best aspect; Rosamund Pike makes her turn as baddie Marla Grayson highly watchable and infectiously energetic (she was just deservedly nominated for a Golden Globe Award). Peter Dinklage is of course solid as usual, with moments of surprising yet sensible emotion appearing in his mobster, Roman. But the real standout here is Dianne Wiest as elderly victim Jennifer Peterson. Wiest walks a perfect tightrope of innocent, pitiable victim and inspiring low-key badass. Her character is easily the most relatable of the main cast, though she has a sore lack of scenes as the movie progresses.
The movie is also pretty watchable and engaging throughout. That’s thanks to great pacing, a modern, energizing score that works in seamlessly, and some stylish cinematography that may or may not stand the test of time, but it certainly works for right now.
But there are a lot of problems that prevent the movie from actually being good. Identity issues plague it right from the get-go, and the movie feels torn between crime drama, dark comedy, stylish heist-like thriller, and offbeat feminist anthem. None of these ever get fully fleshed-out, and the feminist themes are particularly troubling considering the sheer level of distaste I felt for most of the female characters (is director J Blakeson awkwardly trying to make a statement by showing that women can be horrible, selfish A-holes too?)
As the plot heated up and began to get outlandish, I started wondering if the story couldn’t have benefitted from a more realistic approach. Guardian-caused elderly abuse stories are sadly common in real life, and the movie miss a real opportunity to encourage social change. Instead of wasting so much effort on trying to make Marla into some sort of misunderstood badass and pitting her against an all-powerful crime boss, it would have worked better to make this the story of a greedy, self-justifying Marla going up against regular, every day people fed up with the mistreatment of their elderly loved ones.
Which brings me to the real reason this movie is so disappointing – the roundup of feeble attempts to make Marla appear more charismatic and relatable despite her actions. None of them work. From an excruciatingly loose framework about people who think they’re better than everyone (sorry, the “predators” among society’s “prey”) to beating the audience over the head with reminders that Marla is a strong, independent, lesbian woman, the would-be sympathetic moments fall flat. None of it feels very authentic, nor does any of it excuse Marla’s actions in any way.
In the end, Marla is finally shot by one of the most realistic characters in the whole movie, the father of a person under Marla’s guardianship who died due to her lack of care. But by that point, it’s not nearly as satisfying as it should be, and I’m left with a bad taste in my mouth due to the sheer lack of justice.
Which is exactly why I gotta go with a refreshing Pilsner for my beer and movie pairing. I think any decent craft Pils will do here, but some added depth and flavor will help wash down the disappointment of I Care A Lot.
While there are a lot of options in this specific style, Great Raft Brewing in Louisiana has a fitting ‘I’m Not Mad, I’m Just Disappointed’ Pilsner. It’s a crisp, dry-hopped rendition brewed with lemongrass and orange grass for bright citrus notes and outdoorsy ambience. The hops give it a softly bitter finish between the zing, kinda like the movie – only I can drink down this beer a whole lot easier than this flawed flick.