Kirby is good, but most of the praise she’s earning and will earn will be for that first sequence and some emotional moments at the end. For the most part, I’m not sure the filmmakers or her know exactly what to do with Martha through the midsection of the film. She becomes a cipher for the sake of the plot instead of something organic. I found LaBeouf’s performance more genuine, someone grasping and struggling through daily life after everything in the world broke for him. Burstyn is a living legend, no doubt, but she’s given an emotional monologue in the back half of the film that is just atrocious, the kind of thing that movies that make fun of Oscar bait would include. The fact that she makes it even tolerable is a sign of her talent.
The writing here just doesn’t work. It’s as if the collaborators knew how they wanted to open their film—showing audiences something we really haven’t seen before in a personal, intimate way. And then what? The rest of the film struggles to find a tone or depth, despite solid choices by the cast throughout.
Another film that struggles with tone is J. Blakeson’s black comedy “I Care a Lot,” which reaches for something like Elmore Leonard or Carl Hiaasen and comes up short. A great ensemble keeps parts of it humming and there are some interesting ideas here about the systemic failures of our society, but the tone and pacing are off throughout and it features a rare misfire in its lead performance from an actress I typically love.
Said actress is Rosamund Pike, who leans into her “Gone Girl” persona with an ice-cold protagonist who introduces herself to us as “a f**king lioness.” Marla Grayson is a legal criminal. She is as bad as a crime lord, but she does it in plain sight. Her racket is taking advantage of the elderly, using a network of doctors and nursing homeowners to make her the ward for people who don’t have family or resources. And then she drains the life savings and very existence of her wards. She is as morally bankrupt as they come, but she would argue she’s just taking advantage of a system like so many businesswomen in this world. Then she tries to essentially “kidnap” the wrong person.