I Care A Lot (2020)

Do you like movies that present a look at a horrible practice that is probably happening more often than we realize? Enter guardianship!

The practice, when a court appoints someone as a guardian over someone that can’t “take care of themselves” in various aspects of their life. It’s usually a good thing, and most of the people that do it are underpaid and overworked and often underappreciated. But there are bad people out there, and I Care a Lot takes that version to the extreme.

Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike) has a scam going on where she has ingrained herself into the local eldercare system, with a doctor (Alicia Witt) and judge (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) seemingly helping her grift, though the judge is an unwitting participant. Marla has a wall of her “stable” of old folks she’s a guardian over. and a history of liquidating the assets of those in her charge to fund her “business.”

When a spot opens up in a complicit nursing home, she works he doctor contact to find an ideal case, and seems to identify an older woman named Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest) that has no family and is “struggling with memory issues.” The background research shows her as being clean and, using the doctor’s testimony, and the judge’s belief that Marla is actually doing the right thing, she is appointed as Jennifer’s guardian, immediately places her in the care facility, and begins the process of liquidating her assets.

But when a cab shows up to Jennifer’s house for a pickup as they are painting it for sale, it is very confusing to Marla’s deputy/girlfriend Fran (Eiza Gonz├ílez), as Jennifer doesn’t have access to her cell phone at the care facility and the cab driver wouldn’t indicate who had called him. Turns out, Jennifer isn’t who she claims to be, as she has a son Roman (Peter Dinklage) who meets her weekly, leading to him using his resources to figure out where his mother is.

A lawyer shows up to Marla’s office, trying to convince her to release Jennifer and move on, and when threats don’t work, he offers her money. He then shows up in court, but won’t release who he is actually working for and can’t produce any documents showing that Jennifer hired him. When Marla questions Jennifer about the lawyer, she realizes what is happening and warns Marla that she is in danger.

Roman sends his goons to the care facility to recover Jennifer, but they are captured by police. As a result, and after Roman has Marla’s doctor friend murdered, Marla has Jennifer placed in a more secure facility as retribution.

Fran tries to convince Marla to run, and Marla starts to make preparations. While chatting on the phone, Fran realizes she hadn’t grabbed their passports so she heads off to do that, and Marla is attacked and drugged and thrown in her trunk, while Fran is attacked at their apartment. Marla meets Roman face-to-face, is not intimidated, and asks for $10 million to release his mother and return some items she had stolen. He decides that she should die, and his goons try to kill her, leading to an escape and a decision to plot revenge.

I won’t spoil the rest, but Roman should have known not to mess with “gone girl.” She murdered Neil Patrick Harris in cold blood after all. The movie’s payoff was not terrible, though it did require a lot of suspension of disbelief as to capabilities of the people involved. It is a movie, and not real life, but at the same time, the last third of the movie is so far out there that it kind of mitigated some of the good things that had happened earlier in the movie.

I feel like the movie could’ve been more of an indictment against the guardianship practice had it not went to this extreme conclusion. Among the people complaining about the movie are members of the disability community, who the threat of guardianship is not some light story resolved through shenanigans. While it is true that the vast majority of people that perform this important function in our society, there are likely unscrupulous people out there that are taking full advantage like Marla, though maybe not to the same, fictionalized extent.

While not based on a true story, director/writer J Blakeson admits that it is based on real cases. One such story is very similar to the first of Marla’s cases that we have experience with, albeit without the violent altercation depicted in the movie. The eldercare community has long warned of these types of relationships, and it is definitely something that has attracted the attention of Congress.

I feel like Blakeson tried to do this going in, but the conclusion to the movie negates all the good work he tried to do during the first part of the movie. Does it make for a better movie for wrap it up the way he did? Yes. But does it make a better story? I’m not 100% sure.

As with other movies that I’ve been watching lately, I’ve added the movie to my Flickchart, and it ended up fairly close to the top at #328. I tried to judge it based on what it was and not what it could have been, and, as I stated above, it is ultimately an exciting movie. In my list, it settles right between 8 Mile and Road Trip, which seems to be accurate. It is not a scientific ranking, obviously, and Road Trip might be a little high, but that was a fun movie too!

As for some of the others in the movie, Gone Girl is the in the top 40 of my list, which is why Rosamund Pike captured my attention in this movie. The others have been in other movies, though not really any that would be on the same level. I have also not seen the other two movies directed by J Blakeson, though if I came across them, I probably wouldn’t necessarily avoid them. Nevertheless, if you enjoy the people in the movie, I’d encourage you to watch it, and it’s available right now (and probably forever) on Netflix.

Until next time…

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