After the disappointment that was The 5th Wave, director J Blakeson makes his return to a smaller budget film that must rely more on its sharp filmmaking wit than a large-scale spectacle. While many filmmakers might feel restricted by limited resources, Blakeson successfully takes advantage of the situation at hand to imbue the film with a newfound sense of style that makes it stand out from the rest. Steady and calculating, but with a twisted comedic nature to it as well, his direction echoes that of Corey Finley’s work on Bad Education, running with an eye-catching color palette and a grounded sense of fun. Telling the story of a legal conservator (Rosamund Pike) who defraud elderly clients until she accidentally involves a gangster (Peter Dinklage) who threatens to destroy her and her scam, I Care A Lot shows a splendid return to form for J Blakeson in a darkly hilarious film that will keep you glued to the screen for the entirety of the film.
Part of what truly brings this unique atmosphere to life, however, is found in the performances of all involved. Each actor brings a wildly different flavor to their character, and the ways in which they play off of each other results in a film that is brimming with life and palpable tension as the story takes various directions that pits them against each other in unconventional ways as it speeds along. Peter Dinklage shines in his mysterious role, as he brings his trademark offbeat cadence to an otherwise dark character that makes him an enjoyable antagonist that is the antithesis to Rosamund Pike’s Marla. Regarding Pike, she is the clear standout here, leading the way with an ice-cool and determined turn that is eerily similar to her role in David Fincher’s Gone Girl in the earlier stages of the film. Yet, as her life is turned upside down and devolves into a chaotic mess, Pike is able to make the audience feel sympathy towards Marla, pushing aside the animosity built up during the execution of her cruel gambits and results in a classic cool-headed character that one will perplexingly love to root for.
However, even with the brilliant performances and direction, the indubitable strength of the film lies in Blakeson’s own screenplay, which jumps perfectly from page to screen. It wisely is slow to show its true hand, at first leading one down a slightly trodden road that focuses on the center of the scam. While that could be an interesting exploration itself, Blakeson makes the bold choice of writing a tightly wound script that keeps one on its toes past the buildup, going from irreverent comedic riffs to a tense crime thriller and a thrilling game of cat and mouse that results in an adrenaline rush of excitement for all. Even as it begins to wrap up, Blakenson throws a plethora of wrenches into each characters plans, and just as it seems to start tying up in a nice bow, seeds that had been planted from the beginning of the film finally emerge to create a shocking but cathartic ending that brings about a satisfying sense of finality.
Sharp, clever, and uncompromisingly witty, I Care A Lot is a twisted and exhilarating roller-coaster ride that keeps you on your toes that is bolstered by superb performances and a stylistic directorial voice. While it may not quite reach the heights of the best of the festival, it results in a thoroughly entertaining dark comedic thriller that will wildly subvert your expectations at every turn.
This review is from the 45th Toronto International Film Festival.