Two Oscar-Worthy Performances Amp Up 'I Care a Lot' [Review]
Awards season is not nearly wrapped up yet. While most of the contenders for Oscar gold have already been released publicly and garnered their fair share of fans, this year still has many surprises in store. Judas and the Black Messiah, Malcolm & Marie, The United States vs. Billie Holiday, The Mauritanian, and more movies have already found this year to be especially forgiving for fashionably late entries into the race, but J Blakeson's third feature has sadly gone under the radar so far.
Garnering a well-deserved Golden Globe nomination for star Rosamund Pike in its Comedy and Musical section, I Care a Lot is a searing indictment of the American healthcare system and capitalism more broadly that somehow manages to remain both a raucously funny comedy and an impressively well-paced thriller. Simmering, sardonic, a little scary, & casually gay? Just how I like it.
After a warmly received premiere at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) this past September, Blakeson's film felt on the perfect track for the 2022 Oscars in which it would surely be a frontrunner. Timing, unfortunately, rarely works like that. And so here we are, with one of the best films of the year premiering to awfully mild eagerness on Netflix & Amazon (depending where in the world you live) in a day on February 19th.
Not only is Pike a wholly dynamic protagonist as the smarmy Marla Grayson, a professional legal guardian (and queer who rocks a suit) with a penchant for taking advantage of her aging patients in order to financially enrich herself, but her costars Dianne Wiest, Peter Dinklage, Chris Messina, and Eiza González manage to keep up with her and keep you invested in the story being told. Wiest, in particular, is a magnificent scene-stealer, more than capable of toying with audience expectations while building her elderly character into a complicated and captivating enigma.
Great media gets overlooked at awards shows all the time, but Pike and Wiest deliver such breath-taking performances that it's hard to imagine anyone, voters and prognosticators alike, counting either of them out yet. Through effective line delivery, layered character development, and brilliantly studied gestures and physicality, I Care a Lot's all-star cast guarantees this is not only a must-see movie and potential Oscar dark horse, but a likely sleeper hit for the two titan streaming services that will hopefully remind both viewers and film industry veterans of the value of word-of-mouth marketing.
Blakeson's screenplay certifies him as one-to-watch—with a cooly alienating story, disturbing narrative beats, & Marla's casual gayness evoking the artful intentionality of movies like The Ground Beneath My Feet, Tove, and Bacurau—but I Care a Lot's appeal stems from far more sources beyond simply him and his talented cast. Mark Eckersley's tight editing, Marc Canham's complementary score, Doug Emmett's pristine cinematography, and Rori Bergman and Jeanne McCarthy's finely-tuned casting prove to have such resonance and impact when sitting with the world Blakeson is building here.
The daring choices on display here could have easily backfired, but I Care a Lot is one of few rare crime films that embrace quirkiness to great success, largely due to its close attention to detail, distinct care, and a willingness to be unapologetically bold and political. Its unsavory characters, dark humor, memorable ending, and overall nihilism might not engage everyone equally, but those looking for a jaded watch will be thoroughly appreciative of I Care a Lot and might just even manage to push it deep into Oscar consideration. Pike and Wiest would certainly deserve that at the very least. Although they may not be acknowledged immediately, their work will go down as some of the best over their entire careers so far.