Released in 2020. Written & directed by J Blakeson. Starring Rosamund Pike, Peter Dinklage, Eiza Gonzalez, and Dianne Wiest. Running time 1 hour 58 minutes.
Rosamund Pike plays Marla Grayson, a legal guardian for senior citizens who cares more about the financial status if her clients than their actual wellbeing. Marla gets more than she bargained for when she becomes the legal guardian of Jennifer Peterson, played by Dianne Wiest, who has connections to the Russian mob via her son Roman, played by Peter Dinklage.
What I liked
I Care A Lot was unnerving from the beginning voice-over. Watching Marla systematically take over a senior’s life while the woman’s son cannot do anything to stop it made me concerned whether this was happening in real life. I’m sure it is. Having an elderly mother who could be susceptible to this type of action made me quite upset and concerned about making sure her paperwork protected her from this type of guardianship and abuse. The entire premise should scare the pants off of anyone with elderly parents. The “scare” tactics used against Jennifer Peterson with the threat of the cops to make her compliant and go to the nursing home, drugging her to keep her compliant, and then selling off her things and home was terrifying to think it could actually happen and people could make a living doing this.
The overall look of the film from the various locations, the editing, and pacing of the film’s premise was quite intriguing and kept me wondering what was going to happen next. How is Marla going to get out of this sticky business with Roman? How will Jennifer get sprung form the nursing home? Will Marla “get” what’s coming to her eventually? The actual ending of the film was simple and glorious to me and, despite some minor technical things, I enjoyed watching Marla’s comeuppance quite a bit.
Rosamund Pike was ice cold and chilling as Marla Grayson. Her level of ambition mixed with detached emotion or empathy and delusion of invincibility made her not only fascinating to watch, but also a clear and visual example of a psychopath. The connections with physicians, nursing home staff, and the courts make her even more powerful and dangerous. Her biggest flaws as a character were mostly aesthetic for me. The vaping was completely unnecessary, distracting, and did nothing to enhance the evilness of Marla. If anything, it showed a weakness in character. For a woman in such control, vaping seemed silly for her. The same sex relationship with her assistant/girl friend was also completely unnecessary. They’ve been working together for years which would naturally bring a loyalty of some kind between them so the intimacy was gratuitous. More on that later…Eiza Gonzalez as Fran was effective as Marla’s assistant tracking down information, surveillance, being the heavy when an elderly person isn’t being complaint and she was natural in the girlfriend scenes.
Dianne Wiest as Jennifer Peterson, the senior lady who finally brings Marla to a state of annoyance she wasn’t expecting, was so natural in her confusion when Marla first comes to the door and then seamless while in the nursing home and drugged. Speaking of being drugged, no trace of a Russian slips out which I found to be quite interesting…
The introduction of Roman as Jennifer’s son was an eyebrow raiser. Aha, she DOES have a family…how will this play out? Peter Dinklage was perfect as Roman the hot/cold Russian business tycoon of whatever business. I didn’t mind ties to the Russian mob subplot or the Russian goons assigned to get his mom returned as well as the attorney sent in to see Marla as well as make an appearance in court; however, I felt they were under utilized in many ways or made to appear less than worthy opponents of Marla who struts around in 4 inch stiletto heels. And again, no hint of a Russian accent even when he orders to kill her.
What I wished was better
Well, technical things like the security guard wearing a gun at a senior home is not a real thing. The air bag not going off, the injection being instant, Marla getting sober instantly, Fran not dying from gas inhalation, the lack of Russian accents…I get they were assimilating as “American” to hide their identity BUT once Jennifer is drugged, wouldn’t her accent, even a little hint of one, be noticeable? Marla and Fran taking down Roman and his team of Russian goons. Yeah, right.
The plot twist. How I wished the plot twist didn’t exist. Everything was going along fine. And then.
**SPOILER ALERT** The scene in the quarry with Roman. The goon puts the bag over her head, Roman pokes a hole and says, “I don’t like you.” Marla responds with, “You only just met me.” THIS was fantastic writing. Then, they talk, get nowhere, Romans says take care of it. So his goons do. They pump Marla full of vodka through a tube in her nose, put her drunk body in her car, and send it off the edge of a cliff into a body of water. EXCEPT, right before she hits the water, she magically becomes fully conscious and braces her self for impact. *The airbags do NOT go off in her luxury model BMW* (If I was BMW, I would sue this movie for false representation of the safety features of the vehicle.) THEN, she kicks out the rear window of the car and swims to the surface where we see she is perfectly sober with a minor injury to her forehead. UGH.
Everything else after that makes no sense because while Marla is trying to save her own life, Fran gets “beat up” by Russian guys. Except, she’s not really beaten up, just slightly bruised up. Marla gets to the apartment JUST in time before the house blows up from the gas stove left on, which would’ve killed Fran (and should’ve killed Fran for a better story motivation). They escape, take a shower, and then hatch a plot. (The shower scene was disappointing. Fran’s face is barely bruised up after two large Russian guys beat her? And what is the purpose of the shower scene anyway? To show two women together naked? Lame.)
Fran does some surveillance. Her and Marla overtake some professional Russian mob guys (because, yeah) and Marla stabs Roman with a needle instantly paralyzing him. Um, no. Then, Marla becomes Roman’s guardian! Dun, Dun, dun….Now she controls everyone!!! Roman says, wait a minute, I have an idea…let’s be partners! We’ll be rich together! Marla says, okay. She releases Roman’s mom and becomes super rich preying on elderly people across America with her guardian enterprise.
Of course you know I have an alternate scenario which would have worked perfectly. When Marla and Roman are at the Quarry, Roman says he’s going to kill her. As he’s walking away, Marla pipes up with the idea of becoming partners. Roman questions it, Marla pitches it the way Roman does it in the actual scene. Marla throws in releasing his mother and returning the diamonds. He agrees and they become partners. The beauty of this version is that MARLA takes control of the situation — which is one of the things she does best. She takes a situation and turns it around in her favor. Marla is about self-preservation. In one scene, she tells Jennifer, “I never lose.” Why would she ALLOW herself to be killed without trying to negotiate first? Now, of course, we don’t get the car in the water scene — which is totally fine. Also, in my version, when Marla gets to the Fran, she’s already dead. Marla looks for her important stuff and gets out of the apartment right before it explodes. (Sorry Fran) We see Jennifer released, her home put back together, the empire being built, and the talk shows. Circle back to the actual ending with Marla and a new assistant (who may look weirdly similar to Fran) and bang!
I Care A Lot is a definitely a thriller which had me completely engaged until the plot twist. So much potential and then it fell apart but came back to redeem itself at the end. A cautionary tale for those with senior parents, this film presents real concerns and opportunities regarding guardianships and those in care. I give this film a 3.5 out of 5 due to the unnecessary character elements and insane and completely ridiculous plot twist. So disappointed. Now streaming on Netflix. Watch the trailer below: