Rosamund Pike stars as Marla GraysonTWITTER/PATRICIASHARK11

“Trust me, there’s no such thing as good people.” An immaculately dressed Rosamund Pike opens J. Blakeson’s genre-bending third feature film with the first of many blistering one-liners. In the wrong hands, lines like this would seem a shallow indication of a character’s hardened cynicism. Blakeson’s script is in good hands, however: no one does hardened cynicism better than Rosamund Pike, as her now cult performance in 2014’s Gone Girl highlighted. Together, Blakeson and Pike produce a film which has been described by one critic as a “bracingly heartless” take on American hyper-capitalism and all of those who feed from it.

“The oversaturated, bubblegum tones of Doug Emmet’s cinematography reflect the plastic superficiality of this sleek, anonymous, urbane world.”

If the characters of I Care A Lot are absolutely morally bankrupt, they are nevertheless immensely watchable. Take Pike’s Marla Grayson, who is not a good person but is extremely good at what she does. Her “business” involves working with similarly morally dubious doctors and care facility managers to have elderly people declared mentally or physically unfit to live indepently, and placed into residential care facilities. After being appointed as their “legal guardian” by a court judge, Marla acquires the authority to assume their property, which she promptly sells off for her own profit. Marla’s business — a venture shared with her (both professional and romantic) partner, Fran — is going swimmingly, until their latest target is revealed to be the mother of a vengeful Russian mafia mobster. So far, so intriguing.

The film refuses to be pigeon-holed, drifting between black comedy and thriller and then back again like the steam pouring from Marla’s vape — a prop used to great effect by Pike, whose Amy Dunne-esque vamping and vaping is almost impossible to tear your eyes away from. Eiza González, Peter Dinklage and Diane Wiest also offer intelligent, multidimensional performances. Each possesses strong enough screen presences to avoid being overshadowed by Pike.

Pike's Amy Dunne-esque vamping and vaping is almost impossible to tear your eyes away from.TWITTER/TEAARDROPS

While the oversaturated, bubblegum tones of Doug Emmet’s cinematography reflect the plastic superficiality of this sleek, anonymous, urbane world, the plot is in fact grounded in the horrifying reality of legal guardianship in the US. Blakeson’s aim is not a Ken Loach-style sweeping statement, however. Legal guardianship simply serves as the roots from which Marla’s evil flowers flourish. It is more a vaguely scathing commentary on American hypercapitalism than anything else, but Blakeson ensures that it’s nevertheless an entertaining one. The plot is exhilaratingly unpredictable, until the more generic second act takes a turn for the banal.

“Banal″ here does not mean boring: rather, unimaginative. What began as an innovative storyline, grounded by a healthy, refreshingly normalised queer relationship, ends in a way which felt mightily unfair. The film had received a significant amount of attention online prior to its release. Many queer women saw the (heterosexual) Rosamund Pike — already an unlikely “lesbian icon” after her role in Gone Girl — in a “canon” queer role, wearing power suits and provoking men who underestimated her.

Just as every other new film with queer female representation, I Care A Lot was discussed intensely on the Internet following its release. Division was particularly strong over its ending. In the last two minutes of an otherwise enjoyable film, it seemed as though its two protagonists would receive a happy ending. As almost every queer person knows, happy endings to stories about us are incredibly rare, so much so that the “Bury Your Gays” theory has emerged in recent years to analyse the prevalence of this alarming trend.

“Blakeson’s otherwise subversive take on the crime thriller is ultimately tarnished by its formulaic ending.”

Blakeson initially appeared to subvert this trope, teasing viewers with a happy ending in which Marla built up an empire of care facilities thanks to an unexpected partnership with Peter Dinklage’s Russian mobster, became a millionaire, and got engaged to Fran. It seemed that just like famous (male) villains (American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman, Mad Men’s Don Draper or Nightcrawler’s Lou Bloom) she would waltz off into the sunset. But in an uncharacteristic act of adherence, Blakeson ultimately follows this trope by abruptly killing off Marla — she is shot dead by the aggrieved son of one of her previous targets.

Peter Dinklage gives a memorably terrifying performance as crime boss Roman Lunyov TWITTER/RAINBOWOFRAGE

Marla’s demise was not inconceivable, given her utter disregard for the people whose lives her greed destroyed, but it begs the question: why do so many (cis-het, white) male villains not only survive, but also often thrive after their misdeeds? What message does this send out to the thousands of queer women watching this film, hoping for a glimmer of representation and the happy endings that are by no means such a rarity in real life?

I Care A Lot ultimately offers an exhilarating one hundred and eighteen minutes of stunning visuals and razor sharp dialogue. However, its otherwise subversive take on the crime-thriller is ultimately tarnished by its formulaic ending, leaving LGBT+ viewers still wondering when, if ever, Hollywood will relinquish one of the most unoriginal and harmful tropes still alive and well today.

Marla and Fran TWITTER/BESTOFICAREALOT

READ MORE

Mountain View

Director’s Spotlight: Wes Anderson