Take Marla and her partner at home and the office, Fran (Eiza González). The pair are introduced as relentless in their hunger to build a system in which dozens of seniors are little more than warm bodies for the foundations of a small-time empire that would be criminal in any other society. Yet their greed is but a drop in the movie’s ocean. And that sea is crawling with other predators who likewise exude a dry, ironic detachment to all incoming threats.
Thus emerges Dinklage’s Roman from the other corner. He’s an immaculate, compact figure who hides behind his groomed beard and chic bangs. It’s an unexpected but quite welcome representation of old school patriarchy, as Roman in his expensive suits and mouthfuls of artisanal pastries insists he wants to keep his hands clean, even while thirsting to pull the trigger. It certainly makes for a new texture to Dinklage’s ability to display sincere, thwarted longing when that desire involves murder.
The unlikely pairing of these two, which culminates in slow boiling but inevitable violence, makes for a pressure cooker that has a case of the giggles. It also marks a homecoming for Blakeson who landed a splash at TIFF many years ago with the underrated thriller The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009). After a decade that got sidetracked with blander studio fare, he confirms he still has that Swiss Army watch ability to plot, and perhaps over-plot, fiendish romps.
Indeed, I Care a Lot features a series of satisfying, and often appropriately infuriating, shocks. Based on an apparent actual loophole in the legal system that’s been abused many times over, the movie’s depiction of corrupt legal guardians locking away seniors from their families, homes, and even cellphones can be chilling. And its subsequent showdowns between Marla and Roman is thereby exhilarating. Yet as the multitude of improbable plot contours mount, what once was shocking increasingly becomes incredulous during the third act, particularly as broad plot contrivances end up supplanting terrific character work in the margins like Wiest, who goes from befuddled to bestial in her justified need for revenge.
One or two fewer plot escalations would’ve benefitted I Care a Lot, but when the ultimate denouement(s) are this satisfying, and the sleek aesthetic is overall so intoxicating, it’s impossible not to get suckered in. With its juxtaposition of warm lighting and a chilly synthesized score by Marc Canham, this is a film that thrives from living in uncomfortable paradoxes, just as it’s buoyed by featuring protagonists who are as repellent as the villains. But then that might be because they’re all just Americans here.