Spoiler alert: This blog post contains spoilers. You’ve been warned!
A disturbing piece of fiction, I Care a Lot explores elderly, financial, and guardianship or conservatorship abuse in the most extreme scenario. The film title serves as the main character’s slogan in conning the American legal system. I Care a Lot follows detestable characters at every point but explores possible real world nightmares in a captivating way.
I Care a Lot follows Marla Grayson, played by Rosamund Pike, who has both conned and manipulated the American health and legal system to take financial control over elderly individuals’ lives. Grayson has an intricate system in place with fraudulent medical doctors, staff, and elderly living facility directors participating in the financial abuse and syphoning of otherwise healthy individuals. The way the scheme goes is a doctor in Marla’s circle contacts her with a wealthy elderly patient, who has little family support, and early signs of memory loss or confusion. The doctor lies in court about the severity of the health concerns and recommends the individual be placed under a guardianship for their own health and safety. Marla is appointed the guardian of the individual and she swoops in and places them in an elderly living facility, whose director is aware and participating in Marla’s scheme. Then, she immediately begins to liquidate the individuals’ assets to pay herself for the “care” she provides and for the inflated costs of the living facility she has placed her ward in. With participants in every step of the scheme, Marla effectively isolates and fabricates the story of dementia and requires guardianship at every point of contention. Written and directed by Jonathan Blakeson, I Care a Lot stars Rosamund Pike, Peter Dinklage, Eiza González, Dianne Wiest, Chris Messina, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Macon Blair, Alicia Witt, Damian Young, and Nicholas Logan.
The film opens with Marla in court as she defends her need to be the guardian for an individual’s mother. Opposite to Marla is Mr. Feldstrom, who is contesting the need and the rules of the guardianship, including himself being restricted from seeing his mother, and the liquidation of his mother’s assets. Marla uses clearly rehearsed, tried and true statements to validate her decisions as his mother’s court appointed guardian. She delivers a monologue distancing family members from loved ones as uncaring. For this reason, Marla is a court appointed guardian of individuals because she “cares a lot.” The judge ultimately sides with Marla and upholds her position and decisions as the court appointed legal guardian. The opening scenes establish the tone, measures and tools Marla will use to keep her money engine moving. After her court hearing Marla returns to her office where she receives a phone call from an elderly living facility director, who informs her one of her wards has passed away. Marla is not discreet about her dissatisfaction with her ward’s “early” passing even stating she believed she would have more time to drain his bank accounts but now must turn everything over to his inheritors. The director agrees to hold the newly freed space in his facility for a $2,000 per week fee. Shortly after Marla learns from a physician in her circle that she has a “cherry” for Marla. A cherry is an elderly individual ripe for the picking, one who has absolutely no family, is very wealthy, and has factually “stretchable” signs of dementia. Unfortunately for Marla, this elderly woman, played by Jennifer Peterson, is not who she says she is, and Marla’s life is disrupted by the Russian mafia as a result of her actions.
I Care a Lot is a unique film which follows Marla’s crooked journey. Marla is a character who should follow the “love-to-hate” model often used in thrillers, however I found myself just hating Marla. She is a woman who takes advantage of the legal system, health systems, and vulnerable individuals and she has little to no redeeming qualities. Marla fully owns who she is and what she does but convinces herself she is “playing by the rules.” While the rules she plays under seem to be legally allowed as far as any judge can see, Marla’s network behind the scenes is a blatant malpractice and a circle of abuse. Marla has no ethical boundaries other than out-smarting others and winning, at any “legal” means necessary. Marla has her victims heavily sedated, restricted of any communication means, and in prison-like care in supposed care facilities. Marla does have a lesbian relationship with her business partner Fran, but even this relationship feels like a weak attempt to display Marla as “human”. While the movie follows a questionable character doing questionable things, it has high entertainment value. It explores a sphere of abuse which exists in our modern world, in a maniacal way which mirrors reality.
Watching this movie gives audiences a scary comparison to the real-world situation of pop music superstar, Britney Spears. The talented musician is stuck in a conservatorship, which has been under public speculation recently. While the exact circumstances for Britney’s conservatorship have never been made public, it is clear she is under strange restrictions at the hands of her conservator and father, James Spears. Britney has been in a conservatorship since 2008 and, in recent years, her fans have become more vocal with a #FreeBritney movement. Two documentaries have been produced exploring her situation: The New York Times Presents: Framing Britney Spears and BBC’s The Battle for Britney: Fans, Cash and a Conservatorship. While the documentaries were of much speculation, Spears appeared in court herself on June 23rd, 2021, outlining some of the abusive restrictions and procedures she has been subjected to and officially vocalizing a desire for the conservatorship to end. The similarities of I Care a Lot and the Britney Spears conservatorship has become a point of comparison online, even producing both hilarious and dark memes. I Care a Lot has shortcomings in character development, but it has high entertainment value, and the plot follows a scary reality individuals in America actually face.