Editor’s notes: Enjoy this spoiler-free review of I Care a Lot, starring Rosamund Pike and Peter Dinklage. It boasts one nomination at the Golden Globes for best actress in a comedy/musical. The Golden Globes will take place on 1st of March, 2:00 AM MET.
I Care a Lot begins with a monologue that tries to make viewers sympathise with Marla Grayson. Without reasonable effort, the monologue wants us to hate the 1% enjoying the crème de la crème as the movie sets itself up. But don’t be deceived, Marla is a real asshole with no remorse and a wolf in sheep’s clothing who has been enabled in the society she finds herself.
Who is Marla Marla Grayson?
The Netflix film stars Rosamund Pike as Marla Grayson, a guardian who gets appointed (or more like appoints herself) to be in charge of old people, known as wards, who have been deemed incapable by a physician and vulnerable by a court of law. This is to ensure that they are not exploited in any form, regarding their health, and most importantly their finances.
It is always about the money, isn’t it?
As the movie lays its groundwork, we find out that she has been having it her way with over 75 wards, despite 1000 ‘non-existent’ threats, and 2 ‘actual’ threats. She basks under the notion that people come after her only because she is female. This remains her excuse when she chews more than she can bite with her latest ‘client’, Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest), who is not as susceptible as she and her associate (Eiza González) could decipher during their preliminary evaluation— which they carry out before taking in a prospective ward.
Marla Grayson inflates the hours she spends on her wards’ cases. By being their guardian, she is also in charge of their finances, properties and whatever decision needs to be made regarding their lives. The longer they can live, the more money she can siphon from them.
It isn’t straight up theft but finding loopholes in the legal system to tip the scale in her favour.
They target the most vulnerable amongst these old people. The better a ward’s health is— the better. This grants Marla more time to get money off them in a legal fashion. Even doctors are in on it, altering health certificates that make it look like the old patients can’t take care of themselves and need to be placed under a guardian.
Marla Grayson is depicted to be a tough person, who has been a prey to the system and probably men, but we never get to know why she’s hell bent on sticking with this latest ward who has the potential to create trouble around her or what has even led her to this life of devious crime. It could be a thing from the past with her mother, maybe? But no, she doesn’t even care about her mother. Then, what? Just the system and men? Ok, then show us or imply how you have been f*cked over in the past. Unfortunately, we get nothing. Just constant bickering about how she won’t cave in for the system she is enjoying from and men whose threats she is used to because men only send threats when they have nothing else to throw at you, she claims.
How Did Marla Grayson Become a Predator?
With this lack of genuine motive, we are only watching her trying to become rich— “all or nothing” style. She would live a comfortable life by scamming about twenty wards. But no, seventy plus ‘clients’ and counting, might just get her closer to her goal of being stinking rich— playing capitalism mania with pensioners’ lives. The motivation is pure greed, the same characteristic that fuels other ‘Americans’ who have reached the apex that she targets. All of this happening in a system supposedly designed to protect these vulnerable folks.
Peter Dinklage goes hard on the Short Man Devil (SMD) role in which he has to overcome Marla in a noiseless manner due to the unethical game both parties are playing under the supervision of the—you guessed it—system. This review is bordering on critiquing the American system which they often pride themselves on. This system is a broken one which gives reprehensible people the reins to inflict suffering on vulnerable people. It includes their healthcare, elder care, policing, the justice system, even the executive arm is arguably shaky.
But, back to the movie.
I’m not sorry, I was rooting for the bad guys. Who exactly are even the bad guys? The mafia or Marla Grayson? People shouldn’t prey on children and old people. It is a no no. Those are two groups of humans that shouldn’t be messed with. You can do all you like with teens and young adults, we will pull through, because these are the best years of our lives—so they say at least.
A mutually assured destruction would’ve been so pleasing to end this game. We are aware that both sides, embodied by Pike and Dinklage, are up to no good. But, we do not get a thorough feel of Dinklage’s evil, so we might as well just root for him. The movie relies on our previous knowledge of the mafia, failing to inform us why exactly Marla should be scared of this particular mafia, other than a SMD throwing food at people and walls every time his mafia doesn’t ‘mafia’.
The 1 hr 59 min movie drags on the insistence that Marla can’t lose and doesn’t lose, most especially when the other side of the game “decides not to play fairly.” Are you suicidal, Marla?
Rosamund Pike’s acting does it justice with the quick switches in countenances which shows a personality that is double-sided. Her subtle expressions tell us that she has certainly been through a lot of misfortunes in life, but what exactly, we do not get the chance to know and maybe share her pain caused by the “system and men.” This speaks to the inadequacies of the script by J Blakeson, who also serves as the film’s director. He leaves Pike with so much work to do, for which she landed a Golden Globes nomination.
Marla Grayson in a mini series
The story could have achieved more as a mini-series, which would greatly educate viewers about this growing unethical industry in the United States with more wards featured and a backstory to help us sympathize with Marla. Even if such a story wants to be overly entertaining, the major aim should be creating awareness on the tabled subject matter, which is the poor treatment of the vulnerable in our society.
However it only partly fulfills its responsibility of informing people about this scheme of greed running in the US of A. The process of learning for viewers gets cut when the crime-thriller movie decides to become ‘slapstick-y’ at a very important point in the movie. It’d have been better if it made us feel uneasy by sticking to a gritty dark tone to show the seriousness of this dark ploy against old people. But the film glamorises it and at the end you would be forgiven if you’ve actually forgotten the gravity of the sins and violation of ethics committed by Marla Grayson.
Very early in the movie, you realise that she is not solely involved in the ethical violations, but those that are aware don’t really care because it’s all under a designed system and what they care about is how they can enjoy their share. Had the movie done more to make it the go-to film on this subject matter with enough depictions of the targeted evil, more people in real life might just speak out against this menace.
- An absurd moment when Dianne Wiest, playing old-aged Jennifer Peterson, unlocks her phone using 111111. Like, such typical old age behaviour. Dianne Wiest is quite cheeky in the film. I liked her in Life in Pieces.
- There is a documentary on this subject matter of guardianship fraud which is really sad to watch. It makes you fume at the ‘system’ and makes you want to even create your own loophole in this same ‘system’. It’s titled Dirt Money. I find the German subtitle more appealing— “Geld regiert die Welt”, literally meaning “money rules the world”, which is truly so. Money makes the world go round. Drop everything you are doing and watch the whole thing. It’s a docu-series available on Netflix. It highlights financial scandals in the global corporate world ranging from the Volkswagen emission scandal to global banks working with drug lords and getting involved in shady stuff in order to stay afloat. For people not interested in all of that, but would like to watch the particular episode focusing on this guardian issue in the US, check out season 2 episode 5, titled Guardians, Inc.
- I started watching Better Call Saul and I’m at that point when he decides to go into elder rights and I wonder if Saul Goodman would get such cases as the first season comes to a close. 🤔
- We didn’t get an actual explanation for the red, green and yellow marks she sticks close to the wards’ portraits in her office. Is it like a symbol for people close to dying or how much they have left? Or was the meaning implied and I missed it? Seeing her paste one of the coloured stickers on a portrait at the beginning made me curious to see how that pays off later in the movie. It can’t just be for aesthetics.
- J Blakeson’s script unnecessarily left Rosamund Pike with a lot to do mehn. I am furious. I can imagine him on set, saying “I have seen you in Gone Girl. Just make those Amy Dunne expressions. People will figure out why you are suicidal.” Easy!
- I highly doubt that the judge, played by Isiah Whitlock Jr., is a clean man. I would place bets that he is a dirty rat just like the rest.
- Chris Messina, playing the mafia’s lawyer is the star of the scenes he features in. I loved the scene when he pays Marla Grayson a visit to her office. Such an exchange of words!
- I respect the diversity on screen. A number of races feature in the movie, even in minor roles that would have gone to male white characters. Did anyone else notice the range? They all slotted into the roles naturally.
- I am sorry but most of the scenes where she speaks against men felt like a forced input by J Blakeson for some feminism appeal. Cringe!
- A huge pay-off at the end shines light on some other social issues that can be found in “God’s beloved country”. Such as the whole capitalistic culture, media obsession with public figures and one other thing I would withhold due to spoilers.
- The whole movie would make maximum sense if the director’s motive is to denounce the American capitalistic system more than people who take part in guardianship fraud, which still doesn’t make any sense. Two wrongs don’t make a right.