March is Women’s History Month, a time to give a little extra attention to all of the amazing accomplishments of strong, determined women. So when I heard that Rosamund Pike, a kick-butt actress who’s best known for her role in “Gone Girl,” won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical, I knew I had to give the film a stream.
And let me tell you, Pike’s character is no Rosa Parks.
Marla Grayson (Pike) is the icy-cool yet charismatic main character in Netflix’s dark comedy movie, “I Care a Lot.” Poised in towering stilettos and a razor-sharp bob, she makes a living by convincing the legal system to grant her guardianship over elders she pretends cannot take care of themselves. She places them in an assisted living facility, where they are sedated and lose contact with the outside world. She then sells off their homes and assets, pocketing the proceeds.
With the help from a morally corrupt doctor, a naïve judge and her business partner/lover Fran (played by Eiza González), Marla pounces on her “clients” (really, victims of her scheme) like a lioness on her prey.
“There’s two types of people in this world,” Marla says in her opening voiceover. “Those who take and those that get took. Predators and prey. Lions and lambs.”
She cares a lot, just not about the people she should be caring about.
Since the release of this film and “Framing Britney Spears” on Hulu, the world of legal guardianship has been talked about a lot recently in the media. The New York Times Presents documentary explains that conservatorships are put in place for people who are unable to make their own decisions or are mentally incapacitated. Despite Spears working consistently throughout recent years, she lives under a court-sanctioned conservatorship in which she is not in control of the fortune she earned as a performer. Advocates for the #FreeBritney movement believes the singer is unfairly held “captive” by her family and management team.
Although both of these movies show two egregious sides of conservatorship, it makes us think of all the possibilities legal guardians have to exploit and manipulate their wards.
So far, the first half of “I Care a Lot’s” premise has all the hallmarks of a movie like “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Both leads are filthy rich scumbags who embody glittery portraits of capitalist inhuman greed, except one is a woman. Unlike Jordan Belfort, however, Marla meets her match: an elderly woman named Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest). As a wealthy retiree with no connected family, borderline dementia and an unremarkable life, Marla and Fran see her as a prime candidate, calling her their “golden goose.”
What those predators don’t realize is that they chose the wrong prey this time, and by conning this seemingly kind old lady, they’ve angered some dangerous and violent people. A mysterious mobster (Peter Dinklage) will go to great lengths to see Jennifer released from Marla’s care. But Marla proudly refuses to back down without a fight, and the plot evolves into a thrilling, criminous chase.
Essentially, what we’re watching are two equally vile, money-hungry monsters fighting for two hours. I understand the pushback for not having a hero to cheer on. Marla relishes in her amoral, predatory behavior, and watching her game the system in her favor is far from comforting. But I think that’s the point: You have to go into “I Care a Lot” accepting that you won’t really be “rooting” for anyone, and that’s okay when the characters are compelling as they are in this film.
“I Care a Lot” deals with the guardianship grift in our country. When we don’t have an appetite for what’s nice, sometimes the best way to look at the awfulness of the world is through a stylized, satirical lens.