For the past several years, I’ve attempted to watch as many Oscar-nominated films as possible, and for the past two years I have written reviews of each film and posted them to this blog. Alas, I always run out of time and cannot see everything. This year’ ceremony has been delayed and the nominees are yet to be announced, giving me a chance to get an oxymoronic late jump-start on this year’s anticipated nominees. Today we cover…
I Care a Lot
I knew virtually nothing about this film going in, except that Rosamund Pike won the Best Actress Golden Globe for her role, she plays someone who preys on elderly people, and something goes wrong. That’s it.
It’s only now, after seeing the film and looking at other reviews, that I realize this isn’t really an Oscar competitor. It’s totally fine as a movie, and it’s a captivating thriller full of entertaining twists and turns, presented via perfectly fine performances. It’s also a film that works the best if you have zero idea of what it is or where it’s going. When I click on it on Netflix, the selected screenshot gave away a major spoiler of exactly what direction the film would eventually go in, and I wish I hadn’t known that ahead of time. I Care a Lot brings attention to the concept of legal guardianship, and how ripe it is for exploitation. Pike plays a woman whose entire career consists of becoming a legal guardian for vulnerable elderly people, then profiting off of them. She is not a good person. She is, essentially, a total sociopath. In fact, there are literally NO good people in this movie. Every single character is Fed up. Severely. Where in most thrillers you’re pulling for your protagonist, in this case we’re just eagerly awaiting her comeuppance, which is a refreshing twist.
Another refreshing aspect of this film that I enjoyed was that, with one exception, any character in this movie could have been played by someone of pretty much any demographic. Our protagonist is a lesbian and our antagonist is a little person, our best hit man is a woman, etc. And yet the script does not bake a big deal of any of this. This isn’t a movie about a woman who preys on old people; it’s a movie about a psychopath who preys on old people. It’s not a movie about a lesbian and a little person. It’s a movie about a guardian and a person she pisses off. Other descriptors are irrelevant.
I think I’m doing a bad job explaining this… Here’s a second attempt:
Last year I awarded Parasite the Official 2020 Helga without the H Feminist Movie Award, because every other best picture nominee, female characters were either peripheral ladies defined by their relationship (mother, daughter, or love interest) to the man who was actually doing things, or they were a woman who was fighting against the bullshit that women have to deal with because they are women. In Parasite, the female characters were criminals who were being depicted because they were doing non-gender-related things. By this measure, I Care a Lot is looking like the frontrunner for this year’s award.
Pike won her Golder Globe for this role, which I guess is fine. She was very good. But I have 2 buts… First, to me she was not the most impressive talent in this film, Nope, that distinction goes to Dianne West, who plays one of Pike’s latest victims. She was absolutely extraordinary as the multi-faceted sweet old lady who gets dragged into Pike’s con game. This role requires some impressive range, ad West delivered. Alas, no nomination for her.
My other “but” is… as I was listing in my head which films I should be lining up for potential reviews, I dutifully wrote down The United States vs Billie Holiday due to the best actress win by lead Andra Day. “That’ll be nice,” I thought. And then I thought, “Wait a second… did I just watch the best actress in a drama movie?” It turns out that, no, I had not. Apparently I Care a Lot is promoted as a dark comedy. What?! I had JUST WATCHED the movie, and I have ZERO idea of why it’s billed as a comedy. This movie was a very straightforward thriller, full of evil people doing very serious evil things. I legit thought I was watching a drama. So, if this movie was meant to be funny, then in my humble opinion it totally missed the mark. Sure, it had a couple amusing moment (a scene where Pike rests on a hot dog machine in a gas station comes to mind as decently comedic), but every thriller or action movie I’ve ever seen has a joke somewhere in it and isn’t considered a comedy.
I Care a Lot bore a lot of similarities to Promising Young Woman, which actually IS likely to be a nominee. Both involve a woman who devote their entire lives to destroying and hurting an ton of people. The main distinction is in motivation; Promising Young Woman is a revenge tale with a sympathetic protagonist, whereas I Care a Lot is just a psycho motivated by profit and greed. I Care a Lot had a weaker script (we begin with a cheesy stupid monologue of Pike saying there are 2 kinds of people in the world and she’s the kind that takes, etc), but the overall idea of a thriller where a chick just goes over the top hurting people is the same, and the plots are equally entertaining and unrealistic. Both feature fantastic leading actresses. Both have tons of missed potential. Both were entertaining thrillers. And neither, in my opinion, deserve any major, distinguished accolades.