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Friday April 23rd

Column: J Blakeson’s 'I Care a Lot' is a messy but watchable crime comedy

Rosamund Pike in a scene from "I Care A Lot." Photo courtesy of Seacia Pavao/Netflix.
Buy Photos Rosamund Pike in a scene from "I Care A Lot." Photo courtesy of Seacia Pavao/Netflix.

J Blakeson’s new Netflix original film, “I Care a Lot,” starring Rosamund Pike and Peter Dinklage, is a satirical crime comedy surrounding a court-appointed legal guardian who scams her wards and encounters a dangerous challenge to her schemes.

In many ways, the film is a critique of business and capitalism. It examines an extreme scenario in order to criticize the corruption and exploitation that pervade the business world. Blakeson embraces the hyperbolic nature of the story, which assists in giving the film a strange and bold atmosphere.

However, the film stumbles in following through on this commentary. The opening act contains clear moments of satire, but once the middle portion of the film sets in, the societal criticism seems to have gotten lost in the story. The commentary returns by the film’s end, but it hardly feels earned due to Blakeson’s loss of control over the story and its message, relying on a rather overt display of his sentiments in the film’s final act.

In addition, the film uses few opportunities to build on its commentary, ultimately resulting in a shallow outcome. While not every story demands a complex and layered message, “I Care a Lot” makes an attempt to do so without fully getting there.

Regardless of the successes and failures of its commentary, the main story of the film is engaging and rarely predictable, keeping it watchable throughout its runtime. 

The dialogue that progresses the plot lacks the sharpness of the story at large, appearing to be more for the purpose of simply moving along the story than effectively conveying its message or developing characters. As a result, many of the individual lines come off as forced and flat, missing opportunities to create more layered characters and scenes. The largest missed opportunity here is the character of Fran (Eiza González), who is rarely explored as an individual beyond use as a tool for conveying the plot. 

Many of these issues are attributable to the overstuffed nature of the film. The complexity of events, fast pace and attempts at multifaceted commentary all combine into one messy experience. Because of the combination of these three factors, there are scarce opportunities to dive any deeper than the surface level. In Blakeson’s rush to get to the next scene or next pivotal plot point, there’s hardly room for the film to breathe. 

Despite the general suffering of character growth, protagonist Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike) is interesting throughout. Pike plays Grayson with a high level of skill; she emphasizes every emotion and trait, truly selling Grayson’s charisma. Her performance shapes a unique and interesting character, despite the shortcomings of the screenplay. Roman Lunyov (Peter Dinklage) is also an entertaining character — Dinklage delivers his lines with the gravitas and conviction that we’ve come to expect from him.

One of the strongest aspects of the film is the use of color motifs. These significantly contribute to the visual style of the film. Each of the colors used has a unique and consistent thematic meaning. 

Despite this success, the framing of shots is so traditional and plain that the overall visual experience of the film feels impersonal. While the shot framing is serviceable, there seems to be a wasted stylistic opportunity in the cinematography.

Marc Canham’s score initially supplements the high-energy pacing, but the film relies on music to such a frustrating extent that it wears out its welcome quickly. While music would traditionally boost the emotions associated with a particular scene, we become so desensitized to it that its use eventually becomes more detrimental to our engagement with particular scenes than helpful.

“I Care a Lot” is an entertaining dark comedy, but feels shallow and overstuffed enough to keep the experience from being truly satisfying. (5/10)

@phillipsonfilm

arts@dailytarheel.com

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