On Friday evening I sat and watched the movie ‘I Care a Lot’ with my partner Strawberry – expecting a casual comedy.
Instead what we got was a hard-hitting movie about the American guardianship system – and scam that Marla Grayson – played by Golden Globe award-winning Rosamund Pike is able to exploit to build a successful small business.
Grayson, in collusion with Dr Karen Amos (Alicia Witt) and property manager Sam Rice (Damian Young), targets vulnerable elderly people to convince Judge Lomax (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) that these elders cannot look after themselves.
This is when Grayson becomes their ward/legal guardian and forcibly puts them into a home, keeps them under mild sedation much of the time, and systematically sells off all of their assets for her own profit.
It’s both a nefarious and shockingly impressive scheme that Grayson runs – paying off all those involved (minus the judge who gets fooled by Grayson time and time again) for her own benefit.
The movie actually opens with Grayson winning a court battle against Mr Feldstrom – who is denied access to his mother who’s in a care facility whilst Grayson sells off everything she owns.
After losing the court case he comments he hopes she gets murdered – and this is seemingly the last we hear from him.
The movie then dives into this grift that Grayson runs in what is a growth industry – care homes and guardianship – which this movie throws the spotlight upon. It’s an impressive operation that Grayson runs.
Dr Karen Amos will identify elderly patients within her care who are ideal targets for their guardianship exploits. Someone who has solid savings which Amos will try to investigate is elderly but not yet infirm, but shows enough signs to easily convince a judge he/she is on the edge of dementia.
At this point, Grayson will come in, and once Amos has written up doctor’s authorisation to have this elderly person put into a home – seemingly the same one run by Dr. Rice – she will appear with the court-approved documentation at the elderly person’s home and then whisk them away to the care home.
This happens with promises of top-notch quality care, lots of activities and freedom, and generally massive bending of the truth as upon their arrival at the care home -and then Grayon’s departure….
The ‘care’ home becomes somewhat the opposite of that and turns is a honeytrap where the residents have all their privileges removed, get heavily sedated, and drugged until they likely lose all of their will to resist.
With Fran (Eliza Gonzalez) by her side – an ex-police officer and hard-asses sidekick – the pair seem unstoppable.
Until they pick on the wrong elderly lady of course in Jennifer Peterson (Diane Wiest) – whose an isolated and wealthy retiree with no known living family. And it’s only upon the discovery of some precious diamonds and the visit to her former home from Alexi (Nicholas Logan) that we discover all is not right.
And this is when we discover that Peterson maintains an extremely well constructed false identity (the real Peterson died of Polio aged 3 years old), and is actually the mother of Russian crime lord Roman Lunyov (Peter Dinklage).
From here – the plot thickens.
An Inversion Of The American Dream
I think this is the part that was most stunning for me.
Grayson is trying to fulfil what she considers to be the American dream. Working hard, and building an organization from scratch in the land of freedom.
And everything about her grit, her determination, and all of the elements you’d hope to see in an entrepreneur and inverted by the nature of the impeccable scam she is running.
This underlines the dark side of the freedom that countries such as the UK and the United States offer in terms of loose legal oversight in places where you can literally build your empire from nothing.
As someone who runs a business myself and is in chase of my own dreams – this became a fascinating character study as we got to see the ruthlessness and toxicity of Rosamund Pike.
At several points, it simply wasn’t believable – that she would have the cold-heartedness to exploit elderly people mercilessly. To effectively take on the mafia (and win!) with her guile and guts.
That she asked them to fight her in court, that they simply didn’t shoot her/bury her/torture her and the like. That her partner was so easily able to access confidential police records.
There are quite a few suspensions in reality that make the plot lose many elements of believability.
This only continued and was amplified by her being seemingly able to track the movements of an elite criminal, outwit him and his team at every juncture (both when legally challenged and invading the care home), and ultimately kidnap him and leave him for dead.
None of that part felt believable for me – and was a thorn in what otherwise is a brilliant movie.
And it’s brilliant because it for me – for the first time shed light on several areas of consideration that are extremely new for me:
- The inversion of the American dream
- Witnessing someone so brutal up close in a character study
- The care home opportunity
It was fascinating to Rosamund Pike – in Marla Grayson, so effectively play up to the concept of the American dream where anything is possible.
Whilst some elements of the film lack authenticity – the ‘scheme’ or rather a slick operation she runs is quite impressive. Her court manoeuvrings are somewhat impressive, even if at times again seemingly unbelievable as the judge’s decision to defend her at every turn seems sketchy at times.
But the business opportunity (when done ethically) that exists in the care home space seems fascinating by all accounts.
It even ends with the mob and Grayson joining forces and forming a scaled-up national form of her guardianship scam – and provides a further distortion of the American dream.
Seeing Marla being interviewed on television and telling viewers that to succeed it’s about hard work and massive determination…is something of a double entendre because…she’s not wrong.
It does require those things – and it causes you to wonder about what remains hidden on the underbelly of success.
Her ruthlessness throughout the movie struck me down also. Seeing Grayson being able to control the fate of Jennifer Peterson so easily is quite shocking. From stalking her to plucking her from her phone with as little as a letter from the authorities to placing her in a care home.
But it doesn’t stop there – it gets darker as Grayson is able to control the medicinal and physical routine of Grayson as well as her access to amenities. She takes her off all painkillers and forces her to do physical regimens late at night and skip breakfast (if memory serves) in the morning.
All in an attempt to wield power from the outside to force Peterson to give up the ghost and tell her who she’s really connected to – which Grayson eventually figures out by herself.
In an unanticipated sense of holy justice – Feldstrom – who appeared right at the start of the movie and said he hoped Grayson would get murdered…is the one that does it.
Upon confronting her after coming out of a television studio he exclaims ‘my mother died!’, and then shoots her in the heart.
All along, in the movie we’ve been expecting society or the mob – the usual caretakers of law and justice to deliver incomparable judgement of biblical proportions down on Grayson…
But in fact, it seems as if Grayson is the demi-god in the narrative. She seems to be both a version of the mob, and the courts rolled into one. She wields both physical power and has the necessary legalese to win the game in any setting.
It is Grayson who can seemingly hide in plain sight, better than the Mob can who are forced to go underground. Who can meet both lawmakers and the victims in a courtroom and bring them down to their knees in subjugation.
There’s something in this that speaks to my ego as someone who’s wishing to have great success as Grayson does…minus the blatant inversion of ethics.
A fascinating movie – that at some point I will watch again.