I Care A Lot Review: Psychological Thriller About Guardianship Fraud

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I Care A Lot is a Netflix dark comedy thriller directed and written by J. Blakeson. The film boasts an impressive cast of actors that include Rosamund Pike, Peter Dinklage, Dianne Wiest, Chris Messina, and Eiza González. The film is about a con legal guardian who lands in hot water when she tries to defraud a woman who has ties to a powerful gangster.

The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 12, 2020. It was released digitally on streaming platforms – Netflix and Prime Video – on February 19, 2021. the film has received generally mixed reviews but was able to bag a Golden Globe nomination for its star Rosamund Pike.

The film follows the predatory con woman, Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike), and her girlfriend, Fran, in their fraudulent adventures. The duo takes advantage of the legal system to get access to the guardianship of unsuspecting and lonely elders. Marla has arrangements with a complicit Dr. Karen Amos, who helps the duo in getting unsuspecting elders to exploit from. The duo of Marla and Fran then convinces a not-so-impartial judge of having guardianship of the target elder. To do so, they cite fake and manipulated evidence to prove that the elders cannot take care of themselves.

I Care A Lot Movie Review
Marla runs a racket of guardianship through fraudulent exploits of the elderly in I Care A Lot.

I Care A Lot Plot

The duo seems to be making big money until they encounter a new prospect in the form of Jennifer Peterson. Jennifer seems to be the Golden goose at first but soon turns out to be the gravest mistake that Marla and Fran had ever committed. Marla and Fran come to know about Jennifer through doctor Amos, who informs them of a wealthy, lonely retiree with no family. Jennifer seems to be the perfect exploit, and so, the duo gets working. With the help of false testimony by Dr. Amos, Marla can get an emergency hearing to gain Jennifer’s guardianship. The false testimony frames Jennifer as a patient who has dementia and one that is unable to take care of herself.

After Marla gets the guardianship of Jennifer, she promptly places her in a home care facility. She also deprives Jennifer of her phone. Meanwhile, Fran starts selling all of Jennifer’s assets and getting her house renovated to be up for sale. While rummaging through her possessions, Marla gets hold of a key to a safety deposit box in Jennifer’s house. Upon reaching the bank and opening the safety deposit box, Marla discovers an envelope full of diamonds hidden inside it. She takes no time grabbing those envelopes and putting them in her pocket.

A lonely and helpless Jennifer Peterson proves to be a rare catch until it is revealed to the viewer that she is the mother of a Russian mafia boss. When the anonymous mafia boss hears the news of her mother’s disappearance, he sends his henchmen to investigate her whereabouts. Upon discovering that his mother has been put in a home care facility, he orders his men to get her out of there, legally. Mafia lawyer Dean Ericson meets Marla, Threatening her and offering up to 300 thousand dollars in exchange for Jennifer’s freedom. Marla refuses the amount and demands a ransom of up to 5 million dollars to let Jennifer out of the home care facility.

I Care A Lot Movie Review
Jennifer is defrauded by Marla and Fran and placed in an assisted living facility.

A legal battle ensues, and Marla yet again manages to keep Jennifer’s guardianship, which further enrages the mafia boss. He then resorts to more illegal methods, sending three of his henchmen to break into the facility and get Jennifer out. This plan also proves to be unfruitful, and Jennifer remains inside the facility. On the other hand, Marla inquires Jennifer about her and her representative lawyer’s identity. While Marla fails to get anything out of her, Fran manages to unearth some past shady details regarding Jennifer’s identity. Meanwhile, a bitter and anxious Marla asked her friend and the manager of the facility to make matters worse for Jennifer.

After watching the news about Dr. Amos’ suspicious death, the alarmed duo relocates to another house. But their fears come through soon enough when Marla is kidnapped, and her friend is beaten unconscious in the home. Marla wakes up in a remote location where she gets tortured and then interrogated by the mafia boss. She remains unfazed and discloses to the mafia boss that she knows his true identity. She tells him that he is Roman Lunyov. Marla then offers a deal – 10 million dollars for Jennifer’s freedom. Although impressed by Marla’s greed and bravery, Roman orders his men to get rid of her. She is then strapped to her car, unconscious, driving straight into a Lake. But, she’s against her consciousness in the Nick of time and survives. Marla quickly heads back to her home and rescues her bloodied partner Fran.

Instead of escaping to some other place, the duo decides to take revenge and kidnap Roman. They track him down with the help of his driver’s license plate. The duo kidnaps Roman, drugging him, stripping him down, and then leave him in the middle of nowhere. He is soon spotted by a jogger and hospitalized. Upon waking, he discovers that Marla has gotten herself approved for his guardianship. Marla again strikes the same deal, this time, however, Roman suggests to up the ante. He proposes a deal in which Marla and Roman will monopolize the guardianship business in the United States.

Marla accepts the deal and soon becomes Roman’s business partner, and also the CEO of the company. The film ends with Marla coming out of a TV interview and getting shot by Mr, Feldstorm – a victim of Marla whose mother died under her guardianship. Marla bleeds to her death in Fran’s arms as the credits roll.

I Care A Lot Movie Review
Roman proposes a partnership to Marla in a twist ending.

The Shortcomings

I Care A Lot has much potential to comment on the predatory capitalism of today’s society. But it fails to deliver on that potential and providing substantial commentary or critique through its murky and confusing narrative. The movie tries to criticize capitalism and how the rich thrive on the foundations of exploitation of the poor and vulnerable. The film does not succeed in justifying its satire/comedy genre since there is little fun to be found in it. Add to that, the misplaced ‘girl-power’ and feminist’ girl boss dialogue, which might critique the liberal idea of feminism, but that feels like giving the film undue credit. Nobody is the protagonist in the film. Any effort to criticize or satirize capitalism gets diminished by the film’s hasty presentation and poor execution.

The ending twist feels unearned and illogical. The whole second half feels tonally dejected from the first one. The story gets riddled with plot-holes and becomes harder to digest as it goes on. This is when the film already takes quite a few liberties in portraying real-life legalities and institutional functioning.

The script feels deficient. The suspension of disbelief required by the second half of the film is off the charts. The viewer is supposed to go along with the idea that two people who “play by the rules” can kidnap a veteran trafficking mafia boss and then not even face the repercussions. The film’s girl boss dialogues and the framing of Marla are in contradiction with the commentary it’s trying to give. Between incompetent judges, incompetent mafia, and morally bankrupt individuals, the film has nobody you can root for.

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Stellar Performances

Despite the flaws of the script, the actors give commendable performances in the film. Peter Dinklage plays a believable and menacing mafia boss, while Dianne excels at playing a sympathetic old woman. But it’s the talented Rosamund Pike who is the real star of the film. She plays the role of a deliciously devilish, charming, stylish, selfish, and psychotic con woman with absolute panache. Pike is sensational in the role and justifies her Golden Globes nod. It is the charm and charisma that Rosamund brings into her role that lends some water for redeeming quality to her character. Amidst a talented and committed cast of actors, Rosamund is brilliant in her portrayal of the morally depraved Marla Grayson. Despite being a vile antagonistic lead, viewers will find it difficult not to get wooed by the actress’s performance.

I Care A Lot Movie Review
Rosamund Pike gives a stellar performance in the film, winning a Golden Globe nomination.

Other positives of the film include the praiseworthy cinematography and the overall look throughout its runtime. The scenes are competently shot and edited. The film is pleasing to look at. Besides that, the movie seems to borrow from potentially great and complex ideas yet, using them for unsuccessful attempts at satire and comedy.

I Care A Lot is currently streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

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By Rishabh Chauhan

Rishabh couldn't ask for a better job than writing about the eclectic bunch of pop culture content that he consumes with a worrying fervor everyday. You can reach out to him at Rishabh@Otakukart.com.

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