by Charlotte Sometimes
It’s easy to forget that a protagonist doesn’t have to be the good guy/gal. All that’s required to be a protagonist is to be the film’s lead character, a moral compass pointing in the direction of good and knowing right and wrong isn’t really necessity.
Which is how we end up being stuck with Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike), a woman who is surely as evil as they come. She’s a crooked legal guardian who profiteers off of separating her elderly wards from their families and manipulating their acceleration into nursing homes so she can drain them of their savings. She’s unquestionably corrupt in a way that is intrinsically painful to watch as it is so believable. There’s no pantomime buffer to her performance or actions, her long con feels so plausible and achievable – which makes it so innately terrifying to watch play out as it utilises on our love for those we care most about and fear this could happen to them. To us.
Pike is a true powerhouse in this role. Whilst there’s touches of her performance as Amy in Gone Girl, this one hits even harder. That’s because Amy’s actions were personal, sparked by revenge and a want to lash out. Marla does what she does out of a shameless thirst for money and power, she has no morals and no line she won’t cross. Which makes her inadvertently meeting her match in the form of Roman Lunyov (Peter Dinklage) so thrilling and so unpredictable. When Marla hears about Jenifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest) she cannot believe her luck that she’s found a cherry – an elderly woman of great means with no family or children to dispute what happens to her estate. Roman has a vested interest in what happens to Jennifer and so threatens to unleash hellfire upon Marla until the situation is resolved. Pike plays her with grotesque magnificence, capturing so much with just a look or expression – and some of the line delivery is simply iconic.
And Dinklage matches her wonderfully, with what may just be his finest performance yet. Whilst Tyrion Lannister may have had the same level of smarts and plotting, he didn’t have Roman’s wanton malice and barely restrained threat. He and Marla are two sides of the same coin, cold-hearted predators willing to destroy all that cross them and manipulate all that stumble in their path. It just happens to be one operates within the system and the other has found means to operate underneath it. Their interactions make for delicious watching, neither has warranted our loyalties – in fact most of us will be craving for mutual destruction – yet we’re compelled to watch as they’re so unpredictable. Without a conscience it’s impossible to sink too low and nothing can be ruled out.
Alongside them are some fantastic supporting performances. Chris Messina’s shark of a lawyer gives a masterclass in slimeball when he ‘advises’ Marla to relinquish her claims to Jenifer. Wiest’s understated performance is a contrast to the others, which makes it all the more powerful as a result. This is a film of grey, of no moral consciences and no concern over consequences. Blackly funny, blisteringly well-paced, littered with cracking one-liners and fronted by incredible performances across the board – this is an excellent satire well worth seeking out, even if the side effects include feeling jaded and world weary to the extreme…
I Care A Lot is out on Amazon Prime now.