Movie Review: “I Care A Lot” Portrayed the Abuse of Guardianship

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Mon Mar 01, 2021

Thinking suspicious elderly guardianship as a distant matter, you may find a horrifying fact that it is a common social injustice happening across the U.S. There are hundreds of guardian scam U.S. courts cases filed, accounting for millions of dollars of assets shifted from the elderly to so-called legal guardians. “I Care a lot” on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video might be a good fictional reference for this cruel reality.

The story begins with a monologue by Marla Grayson, a fearless and villainous businesswoman who owns a professional guardianship agency that looks for “incompetent” elderly and seeks legal conservatorship for them. “I’m a lioness,” says Grayson. “Playing fair is a joke invited by rich people to keep the rest of us poor.” The cold tone for the opening speech is well delivered by Rosemund Pike, a three-time Global Globe Award nominee, who played Grayson. 

Grayson’s business is successful, because of dirty corruption between her agency, elderly care facilities, and doctors who provide proof of the necessity of a non-family member stepping in to be the guardian. Once poor, Grayson has a strong desire to be rich and strong. The son of one of her case subjects threatens her after losing his appeal to revoke the court decision of Grayson’s legal guardianship. Grayson spits in his face, and warns him that he will suffer from an unpleasant experience if he threatens her ever again. Grayson’s greed and high self-esteem are never satisfied, not even when her life is in danger after targeting an old lady.

Introduced by a doctor who conspires with Grayson, Jennifer Peterson (played by Dianne Wiest) - a “golden goose” - is targeted as the next prey of Grayson and her partner Fran (played by Eiza González). However, Peterson is actually not the real Peterson, but the mother of a Russian gangster boss, Roman Lunyov (played by Peter Dinklage). After sending Peterson to the elderly home and taking over all of her assets, Grayson and Fran are then chased by Lunyov. Grayson escapes from Lunyov’s first attempt of her purge, and then saves Fran who also almost dies  after the gangster's attack. The two survivors - daring, wicked, and avaricious - came up with a new plan to kidnap Lunyov, turn him as another incompetent person, and then seek legal guardianship for Lunyov. The plan succeeds, and Lunyov even counter-offers to partner with Grayson to build a billion-dollar guardianship business to provide one-stop-shop services. Here comes a last twist that Grayson cannot enjoy the success soon after her kingdom was built - she is shot by her client’s son mentioned earlier who failed to see his mother one last time before her death. The social injustice of such elderly guardian scam was put on pause.

Grayson might be a cold demon that obsesses with money, but I believe deep inside she had a good heart, evidenced by her love of her partner Fran. The lesbian relationship between Grayson and Fran is romantic and true, as they are both willing to fight to be together forever. Nonetheless Fran is the only person that Grayson cares for, and Grayson shows no empathy to any of her prey.

This seemingly putative movie is not based on a true story, although some movie critics argue that Marla Grayson is similar to April Parks, who was sentenced to jail for up to 40 years for her abuse of conservatorship. The writer and director J. Blakeson has confirmed that and said the plot is inspired by the gruesome news stories about elderly abuse and guardian scam. With the great acting of Pike and the impressive cinematography and directing led by Blakeson, “I Care A Lot” is an incredible piece to uncover the dark side of legal guardianship in the U.S.

After “Gone Girl”, Pike showcased her elevated acting in “I Care A Lot”. The most memorable moment that shows Pike’s remarkable acting is the scene after she escapes from a car pushed into a lake  by gangsters and she strolls into a convenience store soaking wet. She stays very calm, bought some clothes for change and a gallon of milk to keep her dislodged tooth, and tried to dry her hair with the bare heat from the hot-dog roller. Being judged by the storekeeper as a suspicious person, Pike at that moment does not care whatever people think but her plan for revenge. Through Pike’s acting and eyeball movements in the taxi ride, you can tell she is constantly thinking hard about staying alive, revenge, and making more money.

One impressive technique that the director Blakeson employed throughout the show were no-line scenes. The opening fighting scene between the son who lost guardianship of his mother to Grayson and the facility staff, the transition scene of the gangster members trying to bring Peterson out of the elderly care home, the scene that Grayson was poisoned, kept in her car, drowned in the water, and successfully escaped, and part of the process of kidnapping Lunyov, all did not have lines. I believe it is a master skill to deliver messages when no one is talking.

The last shooting scene causing Grayson’s death might be controversial, but, to me, it sent a clear message that bad people are not always lucky to escape from their bad deeds. Grayson’s death sends the message that society should not tolerate any unfairness, injustice, or exploitation. Elderly abuse is just one of the unjust issues. Judiciary reports show there have been proposals for abolishing the idea of legal guardianship and more detailed investigation on the eligibility of anyone claiming legal guardianship. Yet, it is not banned as of now. The problem is still in a rabbit hole.

 

 

Appears in
2021 - Spring - Issue 5
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