There’s real excitement in movies with a female lead. Very honestly, I’m more drawn to things that show women doing cool stuff than I am to watching male characters talk over each other for two hours. If I wanted to witness that, I would just leave my apartment.
But anyways, I get really excited when I see a trailer that showcases strong, badass women in charge. It’s cool to see a shift in the narrative, it’s even cooler when it’s done correctly. In J Blakeson’s new Netflix thriller “I Care A Lot,” we follow Rosamund Pike as Marla Grayson, someone who appears, at first, to be the lady in charge and we quickly learn that yes, she’s a lady in charge, but of what turns out to be the actual plot.
Grayson is the head of an operation that takes advantage of older people by deeming them incapable of living on their own. In turn, Grayson becomes their legal guardian and soon enough, they become a bank account to suck dry. While that sounds like a pretty cool plot to follow, what falls short is Grayson as a character. There’s not much to her other than a bobbed haircut, an obnoxiously large vape and a lack of real personality.
I can’t help but think that maybe this is what happens when men try to write compelling women. Maybe Grayson sounded really cool in Blakeson’s head and when he had to actually put her on paper, on screen, his ambitions fell short and it was a lot easier to have the leading lady be a pawn in a bigger game.
When Jennifer Peterson becomes Grayson’s next prospect, everyone learns quickly that she’s not just an inept old person who's easy to screw over. Her son, played by Peter Dinklage, quickly catches wind of her disappearance and soon the Russian Mafia is breaking down doors to the senior home and shooting security guards without hesitation.
It’s a movie that has your jaw dropping every five minutes because it’s hard to pin down what’s exactly happening. You don’t have time to digress the last scene because you’re already on the next. A minute away from the screen leaves you stranded. Where did she go? Why is he doing that? Is she really hitting the vape again?
The only consistent plot element is the obnoxious vape. It’s actually one of the few things that stuck out to me the entire time and it’s already had its fair share of memes online.
And that’s the problem. In a movie that has potential to tell a cool story about a female villain, the audience shouldn’t be walking away wondering how much a vape company had to put up in order to get that much screen time. We don’t see any development on Grayson’s end, the only thing we know about her personally is that she works alongside her girlfriend, Fran, who grows hesitant when Grayson continues to keep Peterson under her “care” after a near-death experience.
In our current society, we hear the term ‘girl boss’ being thrown around a ton. In “I Care A Lot,” the movie quickly becomes awkward, girl-boss propaganda. What was once accepted by the public as a term to describe a hardworking, capable woman is now a memeifable concept, one that falls short of its real goal and allows for mockery. And just for the record, does anyone ever say boy boss?
It also has generally only ever really applied to white women. Think Sheryl Sandberg or Hillary Clinton. It tends to disregard racial disparity and only makes way for a change in the gender gap. Not to say that gender equality isn’t important, but girl boss as a societal trend has relied heavily on the workings of white women and gender equality isn’t pertinent to just one race.
In “I Care A Lot,” this idea sits forthright. In a weird way, the movie appears to want you to be on her team. The movie starts with a voiceover and she says, “There’s two types of people in this world. Those who take and those that get took. Predators and prey. Lions and lambs.” But, she’s a rebel in all the wrong ways. Any faint hints of real feminism come from a frazzled and frustrated Grayson. Even those attempts fall short of getting the real message across. When she gets verbally attacked for keeping someone’s mother away from their son up until her death, she tries to pivot this into a gender thing and it’s not. When you’re taking advantage of old people and profiting from it, you sort of deserve the heat — gender aside.
Are these the sorts of things that happen when men try and write women into power? You can’t help but laugh at certain monologues because at times, it’s so painfully obvious that a man is behind the camera directing Pike on how to sell her sorrows. When Peterson’s son finally has a sit down with Grayson, we see her fight for her life in the form of a plea for money. She admits she’s not scared to die but then pleads for a crisp $10 million for the return of his mother. It would’ve been cool to see Grayson as a real person here, especially when she’s staring death in the face.
Overall, I wanted to like this movie. I love Rosamund Pike and I also really liked the movie poster. But that’s not enough, especially in this day and age. If you spend a lot of your time online, constantly taking in different forms of media and growing your lens of criticism, nothing will ever really make you happy. Maybe in the future, a movie about a woman in charge will be about just that. Until then, we continue to sift through oversaturated, often insincere narratives that keep falling short.