Thousands of senior citizens from all walks of life across the country are currently under legal guardianship, a means by which elderly individuals incapacitated from being able to make health and financial decisions for themselves.
In many situations, this is in the best interest of the individual, deemed a ward of the state and assigned a caretaker to assist with financial, medical and legal transactions on their behalf.
But as is so often the case, granting power of attorney over another person can be a corruptible action where the guardian looks out for their own self-interest and financial gain as numerous caretakers have been arrested in recent years for exploiting their wards.
Writer/director J Blakeson points his camera lens squarely on the idea that nefarious people game the legal system to rob others of their life savings with I Care A Lot, a black dramedy that debuted at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival before releasing on Netflix last month.
In the film, Golden Globe and Oscar nominee Rosamund Pike stars as Marla Grayson, who has turned her profession as a legal guardian to senior citizens into a money-making machine, convincing the courts to make rich retirees wards of the state in her care. When her eyes become trained on a new victim, things spiral out of control rather quickly.
Blakeson infuses his film with an abundance of dry wit painted over a stylized background of bright, shimmering hues that give I Care A Lot that “feels too good to be true” sense of something amiss under the surface. His points on the welfare system for the elderly are well-taken and Blakeson emphasizes the levels of corruption that can occur to swindle the unwitting every step of the way.
There are no heroes to be found here and as such, it often makes it difficult for the audience to truly connect with the film as viewers are forced to balance one character’s treachery with the next in a way that never truly feels stable.
In I Care A Lot, Rosamund Pike is a right proper villain as it were. Audiences feel the callousness and depths of Marla’s treachery oozing off every line delivery and the cold, blankness approach Pike brings to the character.
As the film’s protagonist, Pike goes to great effort in order to ensure an entertaining, engaging character with which to build a feature around. She does so in a way that commands the attention of those around her not with raw magnetism, but with Marla’s sheer willpower and determination to win at any cost.
Dianne Wiest is terrific in short bursts as Marla’s latest victim-to-be, Jennifer, blending both a naivety and hyper-awareness into a character slowly losing her agency and later her mind as Marla places her in a retirement home to wallow away her days.
A solid supporting cast including Eiza González as Marla’s partner and assistant, Peter Dinklage as a shadowy figure with ties to Jennifer and Chris Messina as a lawyer trying to free Jennifer give I Care A Lot added personality with vibrant performances and choices that don’t always work but feed into Blakeson’s directorial style.
I Care A Lot makes great effort to show how the elderly can be blindsided by a variety of corporate interests that take human beings and turn them into commodities for financial profiteering. Almost like something from an Ocean’s Eleven heist, Blakeson meticulously lays this out through a series of handshake deals, private court hearings and fake smiles as Marla and her associates perform their tricks to swindle seniors out of their life savings.
Blakeson does a terrific job of setting these initial expectations for his audience only to reveal something much more nefarious and darker. All the while, the bright sheen that covers I Care A Lot early visually begins to fade slightly as Marla’s world spirals out of control.
If Blakeson’s film was through and through the courtroom dark dramedy like originally framed, the premise of I Care A Lot was strong enough to really make it a true standout film. As it is, however, it simply devolves into genre fodder perfect for an intriguing evening Netflix watch on the couch.