By Andrés Muñoz
Warning! this article contains spoilers for “I Care A Lot”
What if someone paid a doctor to legally confirm that you are medically unstable and in need of a legal guardian? And what if they then seize and sell all your assets? In Netflix’s latest film,I Care A Lot, writer and director J Blakeson takes us deep into the predatory world of guardianship fraud.
Marla Grayson, the film’s protagonist, played by Rosamund Pike, is a lioness of a woman. A self-made girlboss slash con artist, she is involved in the “business” of legal guardianship. Having a portfolio of wards, she manages the assets of older individuals so they are “properly” taken care of. However, this practice is nothing more than a scam, a legal loophole Marla uses to find an opening to the senior citizens’ acquired fortunes. She doesn’t flinch when the time comes to grab as much as she can. Wearing designer outfits, smoking a vape pen and driving expensive cars, she is the “Gordon”, or should I say, “Gloria Gecko” of the assisted care world.
The film begins with Marla receiving a tip on what is known as a “cherry”: a person who has saved lots of money but has no family or heirs to take over it once she is gone. This cherry comes in the form of Jennifer Peterson, an old lady played brilliantly by Dianne Wiest. Marla sets the oily wheels of her machine in motion, and when Jennifer is taken to a senior home, Marla and her assistant/lover Fran start selling the woman’s house and emptying her bank accounts. Little do they know that Jennifer is, in fact, the mother of a Russian mobster (Game of Thrones’s Peter Dinklage), who will ruthlessly stop at nothing to “take care” of Marla.
Playing The System
Marla’s entire operation has a facade of legality. In the eyes of the law, Marla is a concerned guardian that provides quality care for lonely old people. In reality, she is a con artist, pulling the strings of an elaborate scam aimed at stealing as much money as possible. Everyone is in some way “in on it”; from the doctor giving Marla the tip-off to the owner of the care home where Jennifer now lives. The only one seemingly unaware of the entire scam is the judge issuing the court order transferring the assets, who believes that Marla is actually a good and honest person. Madam Justice, in all her blindness, impartiality and objectivity, is none the wiser.
Survival Of The Schemiest
Greed is the protagonist of the film, leaving us with few likeable characters to root for. Marla has succeeded thanks to never backing down to anyone. From the start, we see she’s not afraid of lashing out at whoever threatens her position (mostly men) while protecting her investment at all costs, a necessary character trait in capitalism-on-steroids flicks. However, Marla’s actions push the envelope and lead us into a darker place. While Leonardo Dicaprio’s gang of cash-hungry brokers in The Wolf of Wall Street might be duping someone out of their money on a bogus investment, in “I Care A Lot”, the victim is someone who worked tirelessly throughout their lives to avoid the exact situation Marla places them in. It takes a certain kind of person to do that. Then again, in a key point in the movie, she says: “To make it in this country you need to be brave, and stupid, and ruthless, and focused, because playing fair, being scared, that gets you nowhere. That gets you beat.” The dark triad personified.
A Golden Globe winner for Best Actress, Pike eerily reminds us of her Gone Girl protagonist with her cunning and razor-sharp instincts. We know that what she is doing is horrifying, yet we are compelled to keep going. Dinklage’s performance is spot-on—as if Tyrion Lannister gave in to his most criminal impulses. His diminutive frame is a dark, comedic offset to Marla’s towering figure, and their chemistry as the film progresses is sinister yet gripping. Finally, Wiest is spectacular playing the mobster’s mom; her scenes with Pike in the senior home are taut and superb. Her character being sidelined halfway through the film is a major screw up, in my opinion.
All in all, this movie is a pitch-black jab at the greed-is-good ethos. Carried by its phenomenal cast, even though the characters are utterly despicable, the tug of war for Wiest’s character between Pike and Dinklage draws out the worst in everyone, and we gasp at the ensuing frenzy. While “I Care A Lot” doesn’t make me care about any of them, its storyline and underlying themes make it a compelling watch. Stream it now!