‘I Care a Lot’ assessment: Rosamund Pike is in peak type

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Not too lengthy into “I Care a Lot,” a comic book thriller with a delectably exhausting shell and a smooth, hole middle, you would possibly marvel if somebody managed to slide in an outtake or two from “Gone Woman.” Like that earlier story of crime and punishment, although with much less gore and extra glib, the film stars Rosamund Pike as a girl whose impeccable poise and radiant smile might idiot you into overlooking a few of her different attributes: ruthless persistence, killer negotiation abilities and a quiet mastery of the lengthy con. Even Pike’s breathily cynical narration appears to channel her “Gone Woman” monologues, although the powerful Hobbesian worldview she advances right here might have used a sharper rewrite: “There’s two varieties of folks on this world,” she notes early on, “the individuals who take and people getting took.”

These are the phrases of Marla Grayson (Pike), a taker and happy with it. She runs a profitable rip-off as a court-appointed (however actually self-imposed) guardian for aged wards of the state, and as such she has a easy bedside method and a present for coaxing others into submission, the viewer included. Even when she scoffs in our path (“You assume you’re good folks? You’re not good folks”), the insult isn’t meant to disgrace us a lot as liberate us. Sit again, the film insists, and benefit from the guilt-free spectacle of horrible folks doing horrible issues to arguably much more horrible folks, then having nonetheless extra horrible issues achieved to them in return, and so forth and so forth till the hand of destiny or God or the writer-director J Blakeson swoops in to settle scores and divvy up the spoils.

And for some time not less than, Blakeson makes enjoyment simple sufficient, aided by a lead actor with an plain knack for slick, conspiratorial villainy. On this film’s imaginative and prescient of present-day America as a late-capitalist shark tank, Marla is an unusually smooth and deadly barracuda. With the assistance of Fran (Eiza González), her companion in crime and romance, plus key accomplices at hospitals and assisted-living services, Marla targets rich older people who’re too sick and helpless — or who, with a bit artistic paperwork, might be made to look too sick and helpless — to deal with their private affairs. She successfully takes them captive, divesting them of their property and turning a tidy revenue for all concerned. None of which makes Marla a straightforward character to root for, which might be much less of an issue if “I Care a Lot” didn’t so clearly need you to root for her.

Rosamund Pike plays a shady legal guardian in the movie "I Care a Lot."

Rosamund Pike within the film “I Care a Lot.”

(Seacia Pavao/Netflix)

Being lured into a way of complicity with unapologetically evil folks is likely one of the dependable pleasures of the flicks, however wanting the robbers to drag off a heist is a far cry from, you recognize, cheering on elder abuse. The film, maybe realizing the issue of the task, preemptively stacks the deck in Marla’s favor. When a plaintiff, Feldstrom (Macon Blair), rails in opposition to Marla for denying him entry to his mom, her well-practiced, level-headed response — that she takes higher care of her costs than their very own youngsters do, as a result of she really will get paid to do it — is supposed to elicit your outrage, sure, but additionally your laughter and, ultimately, your grudging admiration. It helps that Feldstrom is offered as a ranting, emasculated loser with a violent streak, all the higher for Marla to place herself, none too persuasively, as some type of feminist avenger — and likewise to maintain you from considering too exhausting in regards to the human penalties of her ruse.

That fraught preliminary confrontation units a sample for the remainder of the film. Blakeson likes to underline Marla’s audacity, her willpower to win at any price, solely to show round and emphasize her vulnerability, forcing her into lethal conditions which might be invariably of her personal making. Her subsequent unsuspecting goal is a girl named Jennifer (Dianne Wiest, gimlet-eyed as ever), who’s recognized, in guardian-grifter lingo, as a “cherry” — a great mark, with an attractive home, severe financial savings and no obvious household. However not lengthy after this completely wholesome, succesful lady is said incompetent and locked up in a nursing residence, in scenes which might be inescapably upsetting to look at, it turns into alarmingly clear that she’s not the docile, no-strings-attached goal she appeared.

I’ll tread flippantly across the plot from right here, since nasty surprises — and Marla’s uncanny capability to anticipate and typically intercept them — are a part of the putative enjoyable. A couple of colourful supporting gamers flip up, amongst them a sleazeball lawyer (a terrific, underused Chris Messina) and, in time, a robust gangster, Roman (an amusing Peter Dinklage), who has a foul mood that he all the time appears to rein in on the final minute. Not not like Marla, Roman doesn’t actually need to see the world burn or make anybody endure past the requisite collateral harm. He simply desires to run his racket and earn his thousands and thousands, and he doesn’t perceive why everybody round him insists on making that so troublesome.

Rosamund Pike portrays Marla and Peter Dinklage is Roman in "I Care A Lot" on Netflix.

Rosamund Pike and Peter Dinklage within the film “I Care a Lot.”

(Seacia Pavao/Netflix)

He and Marla make nifty odd-couple adversaries, signaled by their bodily disparities and contrasting vices. (She vapes incessantly; he likes high-end pastries.) However the amiable rogues’ gallery apart, “I Care a Lot” is just about a one-woman present for Pike, who works in a constricted emotional vary however a boundless bodily one. In her courtroom scenes she’s like a sentinel, standing tall and by no means placing a foot or an argument flawed, with a wonderfully lower bob that frames her face like an historical warfare helmet. A later hospital scene finds her much more in her ingredient: a Nurse Ratched in excessive heels.

Extra chameleonlike shades, in different phrases, of “Gone Woman” — which, by the way, would have made a advantageous alternate title for Blakeson’s 2009 debut function, “The Disappearance of Alice Creed.” Right here, as in that artful abduction thriller, the director savors the mechanics of entrapment and escape; he delights in placing his characters by way of the wringer and watching them wriggle their method out. Alongside together with his uniformly sharp collaborators — they embody cinematographer Doug Emmett, editor Mark Eckersley and composer Marc Canham, who wrote the synth-heavy rating — he fashions “I Care a Lot” right into a swift, engrossing train in suspense, propelled by busy, outlandish twists from which you’ll glean the occasional flash of satire or emotion.

These flashes are welcome; they’re additionally not fairly sufficient. You’ve doubtless learn a factor or two not too long ago about crooked conservatorships within the celeb sphere, although whether or not these headlines make “I Care a Lot” appear to be an unusually topical leisure or expose it as a skinny, opportunistic hustle is open to debate. The film itself appears confused on the matter: It belatedly tries to develop a coronary heart in its closing scenes, tossing off its snarky, self-satisfied cynicism and making a half-hearted lurch towards catharsis. It desires you to care, greater than it cares to confess.

‘I Care a Lot’

Rated: R, for language all through and a few violence

Working time: 1 hour, 59 minutes

Enjoying: Begins Feb. 19 on Netflix

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