I Care a Lot (2020) is a well produced, nicely performed, and thoroughly professional thriller with a smidgen of Hitchcockian flair. Unfortunately, it’s also hard to enjoy, seeing as it’s basically competence porn about sociopaths. The “hero” of the film is Marla Grayson (an aggressively devious Rosamund Pike), a predatory social worker running a truly monstrous grift. By exploiting legal loopholes around elder care in the courts, Marla assumes legal guardianship of vulnerable seniors, liquidates their holdings, and pockets the proceeds. Marla’s constantly on the lookout for a new golden goose, and she finds one when she and her colleague/girlfriend Fran (Eiza Gonzalez) are tipped off by unscrupulous doctor Karen Amos (Alicia Witt) about a highly lucrative target: Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Weist), a woman with valuable assets and no meddling family to interfere with the scam. Or so they think: turns out Jennifer has a mysterious, hidden benefactor named Roman (Peter Dinklage), a Russian mafia criminal who isn’t about to let Marla play her game.
As a polished, engaging production, there’s plenty to like about I Care a Lot, with Pike and Gonzalez commanding attention effortlessly as the devious scam artists, and Dinklage owning the screen as a formidable enemy. The only problem? These are all just atrocious people. Pike, despite her effortless presence inhabiting the role, is nearly impossible to root for given the magnitude of her callous criminal doings. The script attempts to paint Dinklage in an even more unflattering light, but perhaps Pike is just too effective at being evil, because I hated both rivals equally. Watching the elaborate schemes of two formidable opponents usually holds some sort of appeal in this type of film, but I found it impossible to root for either of them. The narrative’s late attempts to spin all this criminal sparring into commentary don’t make the experience any more satisfying, nor does a late-in-the-game attempt to call Marla on the carpet. At the end of the day, I Care a Lot earns its share of film-making respect, but ultimately I found its despicable characters utterly alienating.