Tag Archives: Alicia Witt

I Care A Lot

Marla cares a lot. SO much, or anyway that’s what she tells the judge. This poor little old lady can’t care for herself and her son’s unfit, so Marla (Rosamund Pike) will step in and be her court-appointed guardian, for a fair fee of course. This is how she makes her lavish living, by “caring” for old people she’s cherry-picked for being old but not too old, in relative good health so she can bilk them for a good, long time, with a sizable nest egg and not too many prying family members around to question her judgment. She colludes with doctors to identify these victims, and with care home directors where she’ll stash them while she sells their houses and all their worldly possessions. Many of these older people are of sound mind and body before Marla gets to them, but not for long. Kept restrained, drugged, isolated, and barely fed, Marla’s aged victims will soon appear to be as far gone as she’s claimed. Marla’s about to meet her match.

Jennifer (Dianne Wiest) seems like a perfect target – a retiree with bountiful assets and no known family. But Jennifer isn’t who she seems, as you may have guessed, and Marla’s in for a whole world of trouble. But Marla isn’t just a crook, she’s a tenacious crook, an entitled crook, and she won’t go down without a fight. And oh what a fight!

This movie starts off shocking you with the ugliness and abuse in the system, the vulnerability of the aged, the potential for corruption, but then good old fashioned greed inspires this story to spin wildly off the rails. It’s an entertaining if not particularly realistic watch. Rosamund Pike gives a committed performance, though it may remind you of her turn in Gone Girl where she also played a harmless looking blonde woman whose innocent smile hid her true nature. Marla is a ruthless conwoman. Director J Blakeson does villainy well, he makes it slick, he makes it glossy, and he makes us complicit.  

I liked but didn’t love I Care A Lot; the script could have used a little more of that care, and the second half doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the first. The set-up is amazing but Blakeson doesn’t quite excel at this whole dark-comedy-satire-cum-wacky-violent-thriller thing. It’s a delicate balance, something the Coens have perfected but few others can truly pull off. Blakeson doesn’t quite have the courage to maintain his carefully crafted cynicism right up to the last scene. He flinches. I Care A Lot is still worthy of your attention, but I bet you’ll be able to spot both its flaws and its fun.

Modern Persuasion

Wren (Alicia Witt) is started one day at work to find that her ex-boyfriend Owen (Shane McRae) has hired her firm to do work for his wildly successful company. Her firm has suffered some financial setbacks and has recently had to downgrade its offices to keep running, so there’s no question of turning this down. They need the money, and a win. But Wren and Owen haven’t spoken in years – things ended badly, and you can’t exactly blame Wren for not wanting to relive the relationship in front of her coworkers.

While trying to avoid Owen, Wren gets to know his right hand man, Sam (Dominic Rains), who is handsome, sensitive, and still tending his own wounds from a rather bad breakup. He’s basically irresistible. But Wren’s aunt Vanessa (Bebe Neuwirth) is pushing her toward someone else – Tyler (Christopher O’Shea) is handsome and fun and pushy enough to insinuate himself to the head of the pack.

Who we are and how we’re feeling colour the way we watch movies – they way we interpret any story, really. And the way I’m colouring things these days is in red and green. It’s Christmastime and I’ve been watching Hallmark movies nearly round the clock, some of which even star Ms. Alicia Witt. So I confess that a) I assumed I knew which of these suitors she’d end up with, based on the tried and true Hallmark formula, and b) at one point I got disoriented because I realized that none of the sets were decorated within an inch of their lives. It brought me back down to earth, where I spent the rest of the movie reminding myself that this wasn’t a Hallmark movie, and it didn’t owe me the ending I’d expected, or indeed a happy ending at all.

Of course, as a lover of books, I was also familiar with Jane Austen’s Persuasion, upon which this film is loosely based, in theme anyway, if not in faithful plotting. But I never did shake that Hallmark feeling. Is it possible that Jane Austen is the prototypical romance writer, and Hallmark’s just be cribbing her style this whole time? In fact, it is very possible, and Modern Persuasion might be the greatest evidence of the fact.

Overall, the movie is a pretty light affair. Its modernity is rather unsubtle and at times cringey, but you can always see where it’s coming from and how it got there. It’s not adding much to the genre, as undemanding as cinema gets, really, a big flimsy and forgettable, but I do see its use: in just a few days, the 2020 Christmas season will be over, and with it goes Hallmark’s slate of holiday romance movies for another year. This piece might be a welcome transition so you don’t have to go cold turkey. It should help with your Hallmark detox and bridge that gap between Christmas romance and Valentine’s romance, and we all know that January is indeed an overwhelming and icy gap, so warm your cockles with a dose of Modern Persuasion.

AVAILABLE DIGITALLY AND ON DEMAND FRIDAY, DECEMBER 18TH 2020
AND IN SELECT CANADIAN THEATRES