Marla Grayson has quite a racket going.
She works as a court-appointed guardian for elderly people, and she’s learned how to milk the system for big bucks. She finds vulnerable senior citizens, takes legal control over their lives, has them placed in nursing homes (whether they need that kind of care or not), then empties their bank accounts, puts their homes on the market and sells off whatever else they have of value.
Marla is the central character in the satirical thriller “I Care a Lot” (108 minutes, rated R, watched on Netflix), and she’s, well, just awful. Played by Rosamund Pike, Marla loves her professional and romantic partner, Fran (Eiza Gonzales), but, beyond that, all she cares about is the ruthless pursuit of wealth.
When she unknowingly picks on the wrong person, Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest), who has a connection to a powerful Russian gangster, Roman Lunyov (Peter Dinklage), Marla has to up her game in order to survive. She could take a payoff from Lunyov — offered by his shady lawyer (scene-stealing Chris Messina) — but Marla doesn’t like to lose, especially to a man.
I’m not sure if we’re supposed to root for her just because she won’t get pushed around by a guy, though I’m guessing we are. It’s the same thinking used in such self-righteously bad movies as “Widows,” “The Kitchen” and “Hustlers,” though at least here it’s presented with more subtlety. Still, is Marla supposed to get a pass from us simply because she’s female?: Hey, she’s slime, but she’s a she!
She’s also a symbol for a system in which seniors are often abused, cheated or ignored, often while having their life savings depleted by the high costs of care.
Well, OK. But that hardly makes the film — written and directed by J Blakeson (“The 5th Wave”) — particularly compelling or profound. There’s some suspense as the danger for Marla and Fran amps up, and the performances (especially Messina) are solid. But that’s not nearly enough to make anyone care a lot about “I Care a Lot.” ** (out of four)
Cornball crime film
While other kids were watching Bozo, I sometimes was glued to the tube watching old gangster films. One was “The Purple Gang” (1960, 85 minutes, not rated, watched on TCM).
As I watched it again, it turns out there was only one scene I remembered — a particularly sadistic killing in which a snitch, while begging for his life, gets put into a wooden coffin that is then filled with cement. Hard to forget.
That remains the highlight. Otherwise, it’s just a comically bad, low-budget mob movie, with heavy-handed dialogue and mostly bad acting.
It’s based (very loosely, it seems) on the real Purple Gang, a group of mostly Jewish youngsters who terrorized Detroit during the Prohibition Era.
Barry Sullivan plays the conscientious cop who, when he’s not trying to stop “the Purples,” pontificates about how sympathetic social workers have it all wrong and that once a boy goes bad, there’s no turning back.
Then there’s a young Robert Blake as “Honeyboy Willard,” the leader of the Purple Gang, a coldblooded killer who becomes a claustrophobic, whimpering ball of mush whenever he’s stuck in a cell or a police wagon.
Joe Turkel — best known for his roles in two Stanley Kubrick movies, one of the condemned soldiers in “Paths of Glory” and the ghostly bartender in “The Shining” — stands out as another, older mob kingpin. He’s the best thing in the movie — besides the cement scene, of course.
Also notable: an unintentionally funny opening in which James Roosevelt, son of Franklin D. and Eleanor, introduces the film from behind a desk and speaks of how it’s up to the American citizenry to stamp out the scourge of crime. Amen to that. **½ (for the yuks)
I know, I know. You’ve been asking yourself, why didn’t Tim include more or his haiku in his last column? (Never mind that it has nothing to do with movies.)
Weep not. Here’s my latest:
The Sauce That Dreams Are Made of (Feb. 4, 2021)
Chinese Leftovers, How Great Thou Art (Feb. 5, 2021)
Love Letter to the Other Woman (Feb. 17, 2021)
When Life’s Menu Takes a Turn for the Better (Feb. 21, 2021)
More shameless self-promotion (Will it ever end?)
I’ve mentioned this before, but here it goes again (I have no pride):
If you love movies and you love the Beatles — And, if you don’t, what’s the matter with you? — you should sign up for the eight-work course “The Beatles Go to the Movies.”
Starting March 2, music producer Tony Raine and I, co-hosts of “Tim ’n’ Tony’s Rock ’n’ Pop Show” on WOMR-FM, will present “The Beatles Go to the Movies” at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod, 307 Old Main St., South Yarmouth.
For eight consecutive Tuesdays, from 6 to 9 p.m., we will trace the history of the Beatles and show a Beatles-related movie. Among the films scheduled: “Backbeat,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Help!” “Magical Mystery Tour,” “Yellow Submarine,” “Let It Be,” “The Concert for Bangladesh” and “Imagine.”
Tony, longtime manager at the Cape Cod Melody Tent in Hyannis, is a native of Northern England and has conducted Beatles tours in Liverpool and London. He knows his stuff.
Me? I’m just along for the ride.
Reservations are required in advance at www.cultural-center.org or by calling 508-394-7100. The course is $250 for members of the cultural center and $280 for nonmembers. CDC protocols, including distanced table seating and mask wearing, will be in effect. The classes are intended to be informal and fun; everyone should feel free to bring their own refreshments.
– Please like Cape Cod Wave on Facebook.
Tim Miller is a Cape-based member of the Boston Society of Film Critics. He and music producer Tony Raine host “Tim ’n’ Tony’s Rock ’n’ Pop Show” from midnight to 3 a.m. Sunday nights/Monday mornings on WOMR (92.1-FM), WFMR (91.3-FM) and womr.org. Archived recordings of the shows can be found at https://womr.org/schedule/broadcast-archive/. He also teaches film at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or follow him onTwitter @TimMillerCritic.