For the QC
I must first confess that I came into this movie with a previously established love for Rosamund Pike and Eiza Gonzalez, and I was ecstatic to see these women play lesbian lovers. What I ended up receiving, though, exceeded my wildest dreams by delivering a darkly funny and upsetting thriller that has not left my mind for the past several days. I Care A Lot, directed by J. Blakeson, tells the story of Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike), who works with her girlfriend, Fran (Eiza Gonzalez), to use legal guardianship to steal from the elderly. That is, until she preys upon Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Weist), who has connections to a powerful criminal (Peter Dinklage) that disrupts the perfect system Marla has created.
Rosamund Pike’s masterful skill to create sociopathic women has been proven, once again, in the cunning Marla Grayson, who shares the same penchant for eerie all-knowing stares as Pike’s Amy Dunne in Gone Girl. Marla’s powerful, greedy, and monstrous nature gives her the threatening feel of a dragon — all the more accentuated by the smoke often billowing from her mouth, supplied by her always present vape. Her partner-in-crime is found in Eiza Gonzalez’s Fran, who provides aid in Marla’s duplicitous endeavors and a stunning shag haircut that I could not take my eyes off of.
While the film never addresses the central, lesbian relationship with homophobia or labels, their love is never ignored or pushed to the side. Due greatly to the palpable chemistry between Gonzalez and Pike, their love feels organic and proves that Marla is not a one-dimensional villain. It is also important to note that their sexuality is never the central aspect of their identity, and they are allowed to be more complex than what is often allowed for queer characters. Despite their compromised morals and harmful actions, their relationship is a refreshing change from the cookie-cutter, historical love story between two women gazing longingly at each other for two hours that Hollywood seemingly loves to tell.
Due to the incredibly organic female love story, coupled with her complexity and dark nature, I initially hypothesized that the character of Marla may have encountered a situation similar to Ellen Ripley in Alien, who was initially written as a man until Sigourney Weaver was cast in the role. Very little was changed to that character, but the first name, making for a complex character that broke the model for what female characters could be at the time. My theory was proven wrong, however, since femininity and womanhood are central to the character of Marla. This character weaponizes the stereotype that women are caregivers and naturally nurturing people to deceive a male judge and the general public. Marla is motivated by the discontent of men and the misogynistic threats that she collects. Her identity as a woman is what makes her such a complex villain and a distinct turn from the Hollywood, feminist character who was rewritten from the structure of a man.
The movie ended up being one of my favorite submissions in modern feminist cinema, proving that women can be lovers, cunning businesswomen, and morally-corrupt monsters, all while also looking absolutely stunning in a bob and pantsuit. Marla manipulated the expectations for women in order to become a powerful and money-hungry businesswoman, therefore succeeding in becoming a villain that will make viewers increasingly angry throughout the film. She also never lies about who and what she is to us. By maintaining this honesty with the viewers, I found myself accidentally siding with her at times and almost rooting for her, before realizing what I was doing.
This is not to say that I Care a Lot is promoting the idea that women should look up to and glorify the actions of Marla in the name of ‘girl power;’ in fact, it’s the opposite. With buzz statements like “I am a lioness” and “Does it sting more because I’m a woman?” Marla fits the model that social media feminism will eat up with a #girlpower blindness. The film succeeds in criticizing the corporatized girl boss by having a monstrous female protagonist you love to hate and hate to love. In the hands of a less skilled writer, this girl boss message may have been the goal for Marla, yet J. Blakeson successfully establishes Marla as a disgusting and immoral person you do not want to see succeed.
The following paragraph contains spoilers.
This is emphasized in the final scenes of the film, where a montage of Marla’s success is presented as a female icon, succeeding amongst men, and proving to the world that women can be rich and powerful, too. This scene begins to act as a lure, convincing the viewer that, just maybe, this movie will let her get away with it all, and be the feminist icon that she does not deserve to be. Thankfully, this is all a setup, as she is ultimately murdered in the street by the son of a patient she took advantage of. She was not killed by her relationship to the mafia, or for her money or power, which may have martyrized her in unassuming minds. Instead, she meets her fate at the hands of the individuals whose lives she ruined through her deceitful schemes. By making her death be at the hands of those she harmed, some form of justice is given out, and it is clear that Marla most certainly deserved what was coming to her, rather than the iconicism of Ripley.
All in all, I Care A Lot is a compelling thriller that provides refreshing, lesbian, main characters and a central theme to not fall victim to the distorted concepts of feminist icons deserving praise regardless of their misdeeds. Women can be evil, immoral, criminals that you do not idolize, and can still be oh so fun to hate.
Featured Photo: Courtesy of Netflix