Do you really hate old people? So does Marla Grayson. Netflix’s I Care A Lot follows the story of an empowered, young federal caregiver who doesn’t exactly live up to her job description. Rather, she manipulates the legal system and medical records in her favor to gain custody and possession over the elderly and all their belongings, accumulating their wealth, much to the despair of their families.
Her money-hungry, ruthless attitude has only taken her so far, as she needs more reliable patients to achieve her end goal of wealth and power. Marla is a person who believes she’s destined to be rich—the lion, rather than the lamb, as she puts it—and when she stumbles upon seemingly helpless Jennifer Peterson, she believes she’s struck gold.
It’s not until her plot is interrupted by a full legal team with an array of violent threats that her notion of Ms. Peterson is changed. Marla soon realizes her attempted victim is more than she bargained for as her life is turned upside down by Jennifer’s “friends” outside the facility.
Who Do You Root For?
THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS!
Both Grayson and her elderly would-be victim are extremely difficult characters to like. For the majority of the film, the viewer will find it hard to pick a side, if either.
To begin, we have a manipulative, bright young woman who feels it’s her duty to exploit the legal system and the elderly to her maximum ability. She believes she’s destined to be rich, one way or another, and does not flinch in the face of death. Her determination is almost admirable, giving her a bit of credit, but it’s still not enough to excuse her crimes against the elderly and humanity in general.
And though we think we’ll feel sympathy for her victim, Jennifer Peterson, we soon find out she isn’t as feeble as her medical files make her seem. Instead, she’s an extremely valuable asset to the Russian mafia, which her son, played by Game of Throne‘s Peter Dinklage, happens to helm. (Not what I expected as I began this movie, but I rolled with it). She’s adamant about her release from the care facility, using threats and even strangulation to get her way. For a granny, she’s a pretty tough cookie, which makes her a very strong candidate for favoritism. However, in the category of morality, she’s just as brutal as the elder-abuser. She should be the character the audience roots for, but her shady past and ruthlessness makes her equally as unlikable as Marla.
The result is: no one.
There is not a single main character in this movie that you will truly like, unless you either really enjoy watching the elderly be abused—or maybe watching the elderly abuse others. Nearly every character in this movie throws a good punch or two, and in the end, have no possibility for redemption. I mean… Marla ends up overseeing a nationwide corporation designed to manipulate and exploit the elderly, racking up billions from kidnapping grandparents everywhere. Not exactly the best character arc, in my opinion. Over the course of the movie, you just learn to love hating them.
Is It Just Geriatric Gone Girl?
It seems we have some recurring themes in Rosamund Pike’s recent performances: a delightfully dark plot, a (quite literally) killer monologue and rooting for the bad guy.
A quick disclaimer—I would not say the films, Gone Girl and I Care A Lot, are remotely similar in their plots or attempt to discredit the creators. Both were sick and twisted in their own entertaining ways. But Pike’s characters, Amy and Marla, have many noticeable similarities, along with her acting styles for both films.
In both, we see a cold, ruthless wolf of a woman masquerading as a bleach-blonde sheep with expensive taste. Gone Girl’s Amy Dunn is motivated by her unemployed, unfaithful husband (played by Ben Affleck, who’s hardly acting) to fake her own kidnapping and frame him for her murder. Her materialism and grandiose desire for attention ultimately bring an end to her plot, leading her to form an alliance founded on exploitation with her betrayed husband.
In I Care A Lot, Marla Grayson’s actions are not far off in motive or nature. We see Pike once again playing the role of a money-driven woman going to extreme immoral lengths to exact her goals. Instead of poor Ben Affleck, though, she targets the helpless elderly, exploiting her position as a federal caretaker to steal their assets and manipulate the system in her favor. Only, she runs into trouble when she begins plotting to steal the wealth of a well-off, seemingly healthy woman with no apparent family ties. Only, there’s one problem, as Ms. Peterson is not who she says she is. In fact, she’s stolen the identity of a dead child, and in reality is a woman of great importance.
Marla’s greed and motivation ultimately drove her to many extreme and, at times, lethal situations and resulted in a forced compromise with her enemy that still enabled her desire for money and power.
The two characters are both deeply unlikable and go against the morals of most viewers, but in situations where they seem trapped or in the face of death, the movie’s audience will still be rooting for them to persevere. While the plots of the movies are unique and do not mimic each other’s, Pike’s characters both strike similar themes and play off manipulation to achieve their end goals of money and power.
Is It Worth The Watch?
Going into the movie, I had some doubts due to mixed reviews online, but high hopes for Rosamund Pike’s performance irregardless. And as someone who worshipped her performance of Gillian Flynn’s “Cool Girl” monologue, I was equally impressed with her opening capitalistic spiel in I Care A Lot.
Not only did Pike bring her usual terror to the screen, but her supporting actresses, Eiza González and Dianne Wiest, both outdid themselves. It was a bit of a difficult script, with its many plot lines and elaborate twists and turns, but they struck fear, anticipation and, oddly enough, empathy into my heart. Dinklage also brought his brooding aura to the production, playing the perfect Oedipus-esque villain and probably showing the most human emotion of any other character in the film. The characters, to say the least, were all twisted and fantastic in their own way.
With everything from punchy lines to action-filled shootout scenes, the movie never fell flat. Beginning with the opening scene with its misogynistic rant to the end scene of Marla in her blood-stained power suit, I was fully engaged. So, I have to say that it’s definitely a solid watch, one you’ll need a bowl of popcorn and a tolerance for elder abuse to get through. If you’re a fan of dark themes and action, I Care A Lot is the film for you.
Watch I Care A Lot on Netflix.
Featured image via I Care A Lot / Netflix