“I used to be like you, thinking that working hard and playing fair would lead to success and happiness. It doesn’t. Playing fair is a joke invented by rich people to keep the rest of us poor. And I’ve been poor—it doesn’t agree with me. Because there’s two types of people in this world: the people who take and those getting took. Predators and prey. Lions and lambs. I am not a lamb, I am a fucking lioness.”
These lines aren’t true. They are well written and sound true. But that doesn’t make them true.
Marla (Rosamund Pyke) says them in the movie called I Care A Lot by J Blakeson. As in all fiction, you don’t take statements at face value. Marla might believe what she says, or uses them to justify her psychopathic behaviour.
Who is Marla?
Marla is the worst. She finds wealthy vulnerable elderly people and has them put into a home by court order. They are essentially incarcerated while she ‘manages’ their finances. She does this on a large scale, exploiting a credulous judge and dishonest doctors, making herself a lot of money. That’s what she’s in it for: the money.
I Care A Lot is the story of how she eventually meets her match, preying on a woman connected with organised crime, represented by a character played by Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones; Station Agent). It feels like it’s going to be a comedy - and Amazon classifies it thus - but it never quite tips over into that. This is presumably a choice by the director who has put together a stylish movie with no good guys.
What’s Is All About, Marla?
It’s hard to know what to make of the movie as there are quite a few themes swirling around. Our ‘heroine’ appears to be motivated by being a victim of misogyny, which has now become misandry. This, however, is undermined by the statement we began with about wanting to be rich. As a result, it’s not clear whether we are invited to root for our heroine because of this.
A more compelling theme of the movie is our collectively shameful treatment of the elderly, and how Marla is only able to prosper because of our atomised society which neglects those growing old.
The main emphasis, however, seems to be on the theme of capitalism and wealth creation. We are being let in on the secret of the wealthy, which is to preach virtue to the proletariat so that they can be exploited. I don’t fundamentally agree with that critique, although clearly plenty of rich people behave appallingly. But then again, so do plenty of poor people. So I agree with what Marla says just before the quote above. She says, “there’s no such thing as good people”. But that doesn’t let her off the hook.
Ambiguity is Fine. Or is it?
The Bible gives us plenty of thematically complex and morally ambiguous stories. The main point is often far from obvious. There are a number of points in the history of Israel and Judah when there don’t appear to be any good guys left.
I wasn’t looking for a clear theme and lesson in I Care A Lot. I suspect that the movie suffered from lack of creative clarity rather than presenting me with an artfully interwoven cryptic narrative. And, frankly, the ending struck me as a cop out.
It is telling that this movie was rated at 79% by critics on Rotten Tomatoes, but 35% by punters like you and me.
Ring of Truth
This movie didn’t ring true with me.
Firstly, the movie stars Rosamund Pike. She is a Hollywood movie star worth several million dollars. Her character, Marla, would say you can only make that kind of money by being evil or exploiting people. But you know what, Marla? Rosamund Pike seems okay to me. She’s not perfect. No-one is. But she’s a good actress and the economics of the movie industry mean that those with star power get well paid. There’s luck involved for sure. There are better actresses our there who lack that ‘star quality’. So it’s not fair. Life isn’t. But it doesn’t make Pike evil.
Movie Marla would say that real life Rosamund Pike is small potatoes. She’s only worth a few million. To get seriously mega-rich, you need to be ruthless. Sharpen those elbows, and get some steel toe-capped boots ready for some trampling.
So here’s my second reason for not believing the movie: I’m watching the movie on Amazon Prime. It’s an Amazon Original. And this is a platform owned by the stupendously wealthy Jeff Bezos who is even richer than Bill Gates who, according to Rich Hall, is richer than gravity. I Care A Lot isn’t really sticking it to ‘the man’, when ‘the man’ is financing, selling and profiting from your movie.
The Streaming Effect
Without Amazon, a lot of movies like I Care A Lot would not exist. Before streaming services, everything was either a big budget superhero movie or independent art house movies. There was little in between except a bit of Oscar bait.
Amazon can afford to invest in movies now they have established their platforms. Netflix led the way here, spending millions on House of Cards, and getting us all used to the idea of a months TV subscription via the web. We are now in a golden age of scripted TV and boxed sets, making many Rosamund Pikes wealthy along the way.
This has not been done at the expense of other shows and platforms. We still have BBC1, NBC, HBO and Dave. There are just more channels, more services and more shows, to the point where people are complaining there’s too much TV. They’re almost indignant about it. Decades ago, you used to be able to watch all the good stuff and feel like you were on top of it. Now, there’s a lot of high quality TV around. We have gotten better at storytelling. Partly thanks to the investment of Amazon, Netflix and Hulu. That’s good. Isn’t it?
Amazon clearly exploits tax loopholes and havens, although there is VAT on goods, and employees pay income tax, and suppliers also pay corporation tax. But then Amazon has made lockdown much more tolerable for millions of people in terms of delivery and entertainment. So it’s swings and roundabouts (which are also available via Amazon).
Just as Netflix helped establish Amazon’s streaming service, so Amazon has done a favour to its competitors. Ten years ago, people were dubious about ordering any goods online. They preferred shops. If necessary, there was eBay, but you always felt like you were taking a bit of a risk. There’s no doubt that Amazon has eaten into the profits of any number of firms, but they have given people a good experience ordering online. And now people are prepared to do that directly, be it John Lewis or an independent producer of greetings cards.
So Buy My Book From Me
I mention this so that you will consider ordering my new book, The Gospel According To A Sitcom Writer, from me directly if you are in the UK, rather than doing it on Amazon. Amazon is the path of least resistance as they already have your credit card details and I get the convenience of that.
Maybe you want to help local independent bookshops to survive and even prosper. If so, you could order The Gospel According To A Sitcom Writer via Hive.
But perhaps you want to help support independent authors. (That’s me). For reasons I’ll outline another time, writing a book is not a financially sensible thing to do for a full-time writer. It may be a good thing for people to do if your salary is paid by a church or institution. It might be worthwhile if this is a passion project. But for almost anyone other than JK Rowling and Tom Clancy, it’s not really a living.
So here’s the bottom line. If you buy the book from Amazon, I don’t really make any money. I get 50p. In fact, I’ve already had the 50p and used it to keep the lights on in my office while I wrote the book. Thank you. But that’s it.
If you buy the book from me, I probably make ten actual 50ps. Maybe a few quid. That’s quite big difference. And the cost to you is broadly the same.
Not Only But Also
Buying directly from me means that I can offer you more. The book will be signed. You don’t get that on Amazon. You can also order The Sacred Art of Joking (signed) an audio CD of A Monks Tale or The God Particle (to listen to in the car), which are not available on Amazon.
And, if you place an order before 17th June, you will be invited to an exclusive virtual launch party with me on 21st June. I’ll be reading from the book, explaining how it came about and answering your questions. So rather than dressing up to get on the tube to drink bad wine you have not selected, you can dress down, stay on the sofa and drink bad wine that you have selected.
You may still want to buy your copy from Amazon. If so, please use this affiliate link. Or you might want to be a patron of the arts, funding authors directly while drinking wine in your pajamas. I know which I’d do. Click here.
And please share this article, or tell me what you thought of I Care A Lot - or Amazon - below.
Last week’s article about the Ascension was turned into a YouTube video. I created it from a recording of a gig I did promoting The Sacred Art of Joking down in Exeter back in 2019 in front of a delightful audience.
Is That A Plank In Your Eye?
In my new YouTube series, The Sacred Art of Joking, I talk to people about verses of the Bible that make them laugh. In the first episode, I’m with comedian and writer, Paul Kerensa, looking at specks, motes, planks and trees in your eyes.
Should I Leave My Church?
That’s the question Barry Cooper and I talked about on Ep 107 of the Cooper and Cary Have Words podcast, in which Barry used the word ‘commensurate’ quite a lot. Which was apposite.