When someone says, “I care…,” we usually assume they’re talking about other people. That’s the image Marla Grayson wants us to believe, and though she exudes empathy when it helps her achieve her goals, all she really cares about is acquiring a lot of money.
To do so, she cons senior citizens by getting a court to declare them wards of the state. Then she gets herself appointed their legal guardian, which gives her access to all of their finances, which she quickly begins to drain. She moves the elderly person into a nursing home, sells their house, liquidates other assets, and pays herself handsomely from the proceeds. She even cuts off the seniors from their families, if they have any, with the help of the management and staff of the nursing homes, who are more than happy to keep all of their rooms full of paying customers — even if that means sedating the residents so they don’t put up a fight.
But Marla makes a mistake when she pulls her con on Jennifer Peterson, who would seem to be the perfect mark, because she has no known living relatives, but lots of money. Unfortunately for Marla, Jennifer has someone named Roman in her corner. While at first we don’t know the connection, Roman is clearly a powerful man who travels with bodyguards and doesn’t like it when things don’t go his way. Thus, we have a battle between two strong-willed characters, both portrayed by terrific actors.
Rosamund Pike plays Marla as a diabolical villain who doesn’t scare easily, who knows all the legal tricks and how to put on the charm in court to get a judge to do what she wants. Pike has proven her talents in under-seen movies like “United Kingdom” (my review is here) and the Marie Curie biopic, “Radioactive,” but is best known for playing the title character in “Gone Girl” (my review is here). Like Amy in that movie, her Marla is smart, conniving, and dangerous.
Her adversary, Roman, is played by Peter Dinklage, the kind of actor who can command your attention while sending chills down your spine without raising his voice. His intensity matches Pike’s, and the few scenes they have together crackle with energy. Caught in the middle is Dianne Wiest as Jennifer, who knows she’s being played but is powerless to do anything about it, even as she warns Marla that she’s picking on the wrong old lady. It’s one of Wiest’s best roles in a long time.
The cast also includes Eiza González as Marla’s fixer/investigator/girlfriend, Alicia Witt as a doctor who steers vulnerable patients to Marla, and Isiah Whitlock Jr. as the too-pliable family court judge. Whitlock has had quite a year, with solid performances in “Da 5 Bloods” (my review is here), “Your Honor,” and now, “I Care A Lot.”
Having been through the nursing home routine with my mother a few years ago, there were parts of “I Care A Lot” that had me cringing beyond the battle between the lead characters. Even in the best of those facilities, the tone is one of sadness, with most of the residents just sitting around, taking up space, doing nothing but staring off into space or at an always-on TV. It’s no wonder they can easily become targets of unscrupulous characters, both in the movie and in real life.
It’s rare that I’ve enjoyed a story filled with so many unlikable personalities that I found it hard to root for any of them. Yet, writer/director J Blakeson and his cast kept me riveted right through the final credits.
I give “I Care A Lot” an 8.5 out of 10. Now streaming on Netflix.