On the surface of the new Netflix dark comedy-thriller, I Care a Lot is a cynical grift that has Rosamund Pike’s pristinely bobbed, chain-vaping Marla Grayson bilking old folks out of their life savings. The game is part of a pipeline in which she becomes their court-appointed legal guardian and sends them to overpriced nursing homes in on the scam. That is until she messes with the wrong woman, Dianne Wiest’s Jennifer Peterson, a sweet and perfectly cognizant older lady with ties to some dangerous people big on vengeance.
But at the core of the story from writer-director J. Blakeson (The 5th Wave) is a refreshing love story between Marla and her partner in crime, Eiza González’s Fran, in which there’s no meal made out of the queer relationship that gives the film its gravitas.
“I think J., the writer-director, has a very secure understanding of this space, and he is constantly casually and quietly subverting many expectations,” Pike tells The Advocate. “Traditionally, in a film script, if a character was the detective or the doctor, the casting would immediately assume that those characters were male,” she says of characters in I Care a Lot played by women.
“We loved Marla and Fran; in a way playing these very nefarious characters, the only touchstone of truth in their lives was each other. That’s the only honest part of Marla,” Pike says of the women who exhibit nothing but respect, love, and desire for one another throughout the movie.
Regarding Marla and Fran’s relationship as an authentic, grounding piece of the film, González tells The Advocate, “I felt like [Blakeson] did such a beautiful job. This is a relationship; it just so happens to be two women. But the importance of the story is the bond and the tie and the relationship.”
“I think that sometimes when we're in a battle like we are in this day and age [for] equality and respect, it's a fine line to kind of walk through, because you want to honor [these relationships] on-screen. But you also don't want to exploit [them],” González says.
“We have to have a different conversation because it's just being part of what it is — just not blinking twice the way that we don't blink twice when we see a woman and a man on screen,” she adds. “Hopefully this movie continues and helps this narrative of normalizing subjects that should be already completely normalized.”
Laced with dark humor and Marla and Fran’s fabulous style, I Care a Lot is also a thriller in which Marla and Fran’s world begins to unravel when Peter Dinklage’s Roman discovers Wiest’s Jennifer is wasting away in a nursing home at Marla’s doing. No one in the movie has been gifted with a strong moral center (with the possible exception of Jennifer, although she does revel in the revenge about to be exacted on Marla). But Marla, whose business is booming from ruining lives and families, has engaged in some especially heinous acts. Still, Pike says there’s a sort of elan to Marla and Fran that makes them individuals and a couple that people will want to watch.
“I've always been very unsettled by these characters who … it goes back to fairy tales when someone takes all the qualities that we trust and uses them very convincingly and then reveals themselves to have none of those qualities,” Pike says. “Marla trades in seeming honesty, responsibility, and ability to nurture and ability to take care. In fact, she's just pretending it all. It's all for her own ends, and I find those characters kind of electrifying.”
“Even though you're appalled, when you just make the discovery, you have to admire the intelligence behind the scheme. And that's what keeps her fun to watch. I thought if this character was not fun to watch, she’d be unwatchable,” Pike adds. “So we always had to tread the line where she's fun to go on a ride with.”
González says that there is a bit of the daily challenge of doing business together that makes Marla and Fran's relationship relatable.
"It just felt like unapologetic human beings just like dealing with the intricacies of a day-to-day complicated business," she says. "I also love the drive between these two women and sort of how they fed off each other, energetically speaking."
Before taking the ride playing Marla, Pike (known for her star turns in films including Gone Girl and Pride & Prejudice) conferred with some folks about the relationship at the heart of the movie.
“I spoke in depth to my queer female friends and sort of shared bits of the script and said, ‘Do you feel this is authentic or anything that doesn't feel authentic?’” she says. “Everyone was excited and warm and really positive about the portrayal.”
“I'm proud of the fact that some reviews have highlighted it to saying how nice it is that a queer relationship is so kind of cooly and casually placed in a film,” she says.
I Care a Lot is out on Netflix now.