I Care a Lot

I Care a Lot ★★★

I watched this one primarily because it was too late on a Friday night to feel like watching "Nomadland" and because I wanted to see how ridiculous it was that the HFPA gave Rosamund Pike a Golden Globe nomination for this movie that basically nobody who wasn't at virtual TIFF last fall even knew existed.

Somewhat disappointingly, Pike's Globe nomination turns out to be a little random, but not in the least bit undeserved. Pike's career has been these remarkable highlights — from "Pride and Prejudice" to "Gone Girl" to her Emmy-winning "State of the Union" role — sandwiched between long stretches the industry had ZERO clue what to do with her. The first thing, one folks keep forgetting, is that she's a good dramatic actress and a tremendous comic actress and I think you could cast Rosamund Pike and Rose Byrne as sisters in something and let the razor-sharp terror and comedy ensue. They're both beautiful comic sharks and there's a finite number of writers interested in creating that sort of character. Here, every eviscerating line-reading, every feigned smile is elevated by having Pike here.

As for the movie itself? I love me some relentless cynicism, but it's not easy to do right and I'd put "I Care A Lot," a darkly comic examination of the "caretaker" industry, in a category with something like Andrew Nicol's "Lord of War," a movie I knew has fans. They're movies that have found a soulless business they want to comment on and a perfect centerpiece character, but they haven't found the right story to tell with that character and within that business, so a lot of promise is squandered on a movie that, without VoiceOver, would have no beginning or end and probably would fall apart completely.

And at no point is the movie worse than its attempts, articulated but almost never illustrated, to portray Pike's character as an embodiment of the American Dream or, even less effectively, a personification of a certain vicious American ethos. It's not a wrong contention, just one that writer-director J Blakeson lacks the craft to pull off.

Pike is the best performer here, but she isn't the only good performer. Chris Messina has a couple great scenes. Peter Dinklage has a decent character, one who gets completely squandered in the second half of a movie that relies entirely too much on supposedly very smart people doing stupidly careless things or supposedly very ruthlessness people half-assing it, if not quite going soft. Nobody gets squandered more than Dianne Wiest, though, because she's got possibly her best potential part in years and the movie somehow doesn't realize that as good as Dinklage is, it should be Pike vs Wiest and not Pike vs Dinklage for all the marbles.

Anyway... I admired the commitment to darkness and unpleasantness and wish Blakeson as a writer had had a few smarter ideas of what the movie within all of this darkness and unpleasantness was supposed to be.