J Blakeson’s “I Care A Lot” premiered at the Toronto Film Festival Sep. 12, 2020 and was released on Netflix Feb. 19, 2021. This “thriller/comedy” has received plenty of critical acclaim and Rosamund Pike, who plays Marla Grayson, has been nominated for a Golden Globe for best actress in a musical or comedy.
The genre of the movie has seemed hard to pin down. Some would call it a dark comedy, thriller, satire, drama, but what it really comes down to, if you are trying to decide whether you want to watch or not, is how much do you care about old people. If the answer is a lot, maybe watch something else.
Pike plays Marla Grayson, a legal guardian who, with the help of the manager of an assisted living home, a crooked doctor and her girlfriend Fran, played by Eiza Gonzalez, cons elderly people out of their life savings and all of their belongings.
Things are going fairly well for Grayson. In her office, she has a wall of elderly people she has trapped in care homes in order to have access to their estates, but Grayson’s ambition and greed stop her from ever being satisfied.
That’s when she and Fran stumble upon Jennifer Peterson, played by two-time Oscar winner Diane Wiest, who is a “cherry.” A “cherry,” in the world of malicious legal guardians, means an elderly person with no living family. There will be no snot nosed grown children wondering why they can’t visit their mothers, fathers or grandparents.
However, Peterson turns out to have powerful connections primarily with her son, played by Peter Dinklage, who is ambiguously rich and evil. Dinklage and Pike engage in a high stakes game of cat and mouse where people are murdered, kidnapped, buildings explode, and Peterson seems to be forgotten about in their competing desires to come out the winner.
Yes, that’s right, about halfway through the movie the woman that Grayson has gotten moved to a psychiatric ward against her will and sold her house, is moved to a strictly off camera presence. The shock value has worn off and is instead focused on Dinklage and Pike delivering Oscar baiting monologues in great outfits.
The movie, which Blakeson said was inspired by the true stories he read about actual legal guardians who abused their position, is more about what happens when two unstoppable forces meet.
It is also a movie that is trying to say a lot. In its attempts to comment on the ethical and moral implications of covertures, the American Dream (which Grayson is told she is an example of by an interviewer near the end of the film), and sexism, it fails to really focus on any of these topics in a meaningful way.
In the opening scene, Macon Blair plays an enraged son who wishes physical harm on Grayson after she denies him access to his mother. Throughout the film Grayson comments on men’s treatment of women, the violence men inflict on women, and her own refusal to let men tell her what to do.
However, Grayson has no issue taking advantage of elderly women, like Peterson. She also shows little regard for her girlfriend, Fran, who wants to leave town before they are harmed by Dinklage. Grayson refuses and then Fran is attacked by two of Dinklage’s henchmen.
Grayson wants to win, be rich and evade consequences. This is not to say that there is a character in the film who acts as a moral example. Dinklage’s character is discovered to be Roman Lunyov, a Russian mob leader and seems more invested in property he put in his mother’s safety deposit box rather than his mother’s well-being.
The precarious state of legal guardianship and the legal system is best commented on in the courtroom scenes where Grayson has to outwit the lawyers of family members and continue to fool the same judge who can never see past her act, but once Peterson is taken to a psychiatric ward, no elderly person is seen again until we see another wall of photos.
The movie seems to be less about anything and more about chaos and any attempts at commenting on American society are overshadowed by prolonged scenes of violence. While Pike, Dinklage, Gonzales and Wiest all give amazing performances, it is hard to figure out why the characters who claim to care about each other have any kind of relationship.
All this said, if you are a fan of gritty, violent thrillers then this movie will surely be a fun watch. If you cry at gum commercials or are particularly sensitive to body horror, elder abuse, or graphic violence, then you should take a pass on this movie.