by Rob DiCristino
Spoilers for I Care a Lot ahead
There’s a porcelain ruthlessness to Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike) that provokes a bit of ruffling. She’s impossibly poised, after all — statuesquely beautiful and immovably committed to her own interests. Much as we might envy those attributes, at least a small part of us wants to muss up her hair and knock her down a peg. That small part of us hates her and wants her to fail. Like every other American success story, hers is beset on all sides by those competing with her for airtime and market share. They threaten her with lawsuits and demand court injunctions. They resent her achievements and swear vengeance for her misdeeds. They spit in her face and murder her friends. Guided by that same jealous inner voice we all share, they can’t allow her to succeed on her own steam. They must make her pay for her ambition.
That’s why she isn’t all that bothered when smarmy lawyer Dean Ericson (Chris Messina) strides into her office with the same intimidation spiel she’s heard a thousand times. Ericson represents Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Weist), Marla’s latest meal ticket. He offers her money in exchange for Peterson’s release and makes veiled allusions to bodily harm if his terms are not met. Marla isn’t amused. Well, by the money part, maybe (She’s happy to be bought as long as the price is fair), but not the threats. Marla isn’t afraid to die. “Do you remember how scary it was in 1807?” she later asks another man who threatens her life. “Me neither. I wasn’t alive yet. I’ll feel the same way when I’m dead. Why be scared of that?” Unless they want to talk business, these men have no hold over Marla. No power. Nothing to do with all of their strength.
Not even being drugged, trapped in her car, and sent careening into a lake deters Marla from her goals. Kicking her way free and climbing ashore, she yanks out a tooth and lets out a guttural howl. But it’s not a howl of defeat or terror. It’s not a howl of remorse or repentance. It’s a howl of victory. It’s the howl of a woman who has seen the cards of those sitting across from her and knows exactly how to win the hand. She then plans a revenge so callous that it challenges the audience to recall exactly who we’re supposed to be rooting for in this story. Is it Marla? Is it Fran, who at least shows occasional flashes of integrity? Is it Jennifer Peterson, the gullible septuagenarian who took Marla’s word for it until it was too late? Maybe it’s the children and families of the people Marla is abusing? Or is it the court officers and healthcare workers unwittingly aiding her scams?