Bookended by towering stilettos and a guillotine-blade bob, Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike) strides by means of “I Care a Lot” with the icy confidence of the inveterate fraud. Her racket is guardianship: figuring out powerless retirees, having them falsely declared mentally incompetent and herself appointed their authorized conservator.
A community of enablers — together with an unscrupulous physician and an oblivious decide — grease the grift as Marla and her private and enterprise associate (Eiza González) occur upon Jennifer (Dianne Wiest). With a wholesome nest egg and no obvious relations, Jennifer is a “cherry”; and one chilling, all-too-believable sequence later, she has been secured in an assisted-living facility and her appreciable belongings liquidated. Marla, nonetheless, is about to find she has messed with the flawed previous woman.
An unexpectedly gripping thriller that seesaws between comedy and horror, “I Care a Lot” is cleverly written (by the director, J Blakeson) and splendidly forged. Marla is an virtually cartoonish sociopath, and Pike leans into her villainy with unwavering bravado. And Wiest is sly perfection: Watch as Jennifer, drugged and smirking, spits an unprintable curse at her tormentor earlier than placing her in a headlock. But it’s the introduction of an inscrutable Russian gangster (Peter Dinklage, all cool intelligence and wounded-puppy eyes) that provides Marla a worthy foil and the plot a cause to climax.
With its ice-pick dialogue and gleefully ironic title, “I Care a Lot” is a slick, savage caper with roots in a real-world rip-off (as an episode of the Netflix series “Dirty Money” recounts). An overlong, considerably mushy center part made me worry Blakeson was shedding his nerve. I used to be flawed.
I Care a Lot
Rated R for killing, cursing and elder abuse. Running time: 1 hour 58 minutes. Watch on Netflix.