I Care a Lot15
There was a time when you could look forward to old age, relax those aching bones on board a cruise around the world, visit family in faraway places, and just enjoy your twilight years. A global pandemic can soon put a stop to all that, unfortunately, and pretty much make an elderly member of the community a prisoner in their own home.
Although far from ideal, at least you can feel safe in your own home, right? Well, sadly even this can be a challenge, especially when you can become a target for scammers, who are quite keen to take advantage of some of the most vulnerable members of society by fleecing them of their savings via some devious tricksy method. And before you can say “I was robbed!”, you’re blubbering into your Horlicks on a Zoom call to Esther Rantzen.
Here British actress Rosamund Pike steps into the world of scamming, playing a highly dubious legal guardian as she does, who takes on a client who isn’t as frail and vulnerable as she might appear.
Where some might see looking after the elderly as a social duty, Marla Grayson (Pike) sees it as a business opportunity; she targets vulnerable members of the aged community by getting them committed to care homes and then taking over their estates, thereby able to sell off all of her clients’ worldly possessions and pocketing a nice a profit.
Her eyes certainly light up when she is presented with a possible ‘cherry’, Jennifer Peterson (Diane Wiest), an elderly woman who lives alone in a lovely big house, with no family to contest her personal fortune. What Marla doesn’t know however, is that Jennifer may have a family circle after all, and one really not to be trifled with.
A key word that underpins this feature is conveniently located in its title – care. The issue is, it’s a film that is seriously difficult to care about. The main cause is the soulless characters, of which Pike’s is central. The film is top heavy with ugly, greedy and self-serving individuals, and these types of characters are difficult to warm too. In a black comedy scenario for instance, which this film is obviously aiming for, there are techniques you can use to inflate the outrageous and make for a more fantastical realism. Not so here however. Director J Blakeson, who also served as the film’s writer, has almost sprayed his entire feature in an anti-bacterial fog making for a disappointingly clinical experience.
At times it almost feels he’s going for a true crime scenario, as opposed to a black comedy, with the film completely devoid of any warmth or humour. So when an audience is confronted with supporting either a despicable female protagonist, or a despicable male one – played by Peter Dinklage – as neither have a winning personality to latch onto, the director indirectly gives us a third option, and that’s to reject them both.
Once that occurs, without any emotional connection, it makes it difficult to care about any of characters or story. This is a shame as there are elements that do work, but only in isolation, with none of them naturally adding up to a satisfying whole.
Blakeson’s career as a director is still at the fledgling stage, with this only being his third time behind the camera for a full feature in 12 years, and it shows. There are signs of creative flair here and there, but don’t be surprised if this effort leaves you feeling part of a con trick yourself, leading you into believing this is better than it actually is. If only it was that smart.