“I Care a Lot” may be the ultimate in senior citizen horror.
Preying on those who have no visible heirs, Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike) makes off with a fortune after she’s declared guardian of those who appear to be slipping. Thanks to friends in the legal system (and the assisted living world), she pretends to be their friend, then wipes out their assets, sells their homes and takes away their phones.
When she does it with Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest), she thinks she’s home free. Then a cab driver shows up, asks questions and, quickly, an attorney arrives at her office, suggesting she’s not a very reputable friend of the elderly. He offers her payoff money, too, and sees just how steely she can be.
Vaping through their conversation (a sure sign), she holds her own, then sends him packing. He, meanwhile, has greater bosses to serve – the Russian mafia.
Directed by J. Blakeson, “I Care a Lot” is incredibly good during its first 30 minutes or so. Then, it takes an abrupt left turn and becomes a film that doesn’t quite know what it wants to be.
Peter Dinklage checks in as Grayson’s worthy adversary and, soon, the two are torturing each other to become the showdown winner.
When it sticks to mental games, “I Care a Lot” creeps like no other film this year. When it heads into familiar territory (and begins a series of torture games), it lags.
Pike is perfect as the cool, seemingly nice grifter; Wiest is appropriately jittery as the woman who becomes her pawn. But the drama doesn’t mine its premise for theatrical gold. It heads to cliché hill and resorts to late-night lectures, mind-numbing shots and staged accidents in order to find an ending.
Blakeson has fun with Dinklage and Pike. Pitting them against each other, they both score points suggesting two heads would be better than one. The director tries that premise, too, and winds up with a conclusion that was as obvious as the opening courtroom scene.
If there’s a surprise standout, it’s Chris Messina as the ever-smiling attorney who tries to get Grayson to bend. He’s as oily as she and just as willing to barter.
Those early scenes, though, are quickly erased once “I Care a Lot” boils down to chases and plot twists.
It doesn’t make good on its promise. But it should prompt those edging into their senior years to at least consider making a will.