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I Care A Lot examines the infuriating practice of conservatorship of the elderly

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Writer-director J Blakeson (The Disappearance of Alice Creed) helms this infuriating black comedy about professional conservator Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike), who uses the legal system to gain guardianship of the elderly to swindle them out of their money under the guise of caring for them. When she sets her sights on Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest), Marla attracts the attention of Mafia boss Roman Lunyov (Peter Dinklage), Jennifer's son, setting in motion a cat-and-mouse game as Roman tries to leverage for his mother's release while Marla attempts to extort him for $10 million. (118 min.)

EASY TO HATE Rosamund Pike stars as Marla Grayson, a sleazy con artist who uses the legal system to acquire conservatorship over old people, allowing her to drain their finances under the guise of helping them, in the new Netflix film I Care A Lot. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BLACK BEAR PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Black Bear Pictures
  • EASY TO HATE Rosamund Pike stars as Marla Grayson, a sleazy con artist who uses the legal system to acquire conservatorship over old people, allowing her to drain their finances under the guise of helping them, in the new Netflix film I Care A Lot.

Glen I can't immediately recall when I've hated a character more than I hated Marla Grayson. She's an absolute reprobate, a con artist who games the system and swindles the elderly without so much as a twinge of remorse. Pike is fantastic in the role. Even her hair is acting—a straight brutalist bob that screams, "I'm perfect and you're not." Marla has the system wired. She uses Dr. Karen Amos (Alicia Witt) to scout candidates for exploitation, preferably old and rich with no family to interfere. When Marla finds the right mark, she goes to court with tales of diminished capacity, gains guardianship, sticks the mark in an eldercare facility, pumps him or her full of drugs, and then extracts all the wealth from his or her estate. Trust me, you'll want to murder her. It seems like everyone is in on the scam, palms out waiting to be greased. The problem is her most recent mark, Jennifer Peterson, has a relative, one just as ruthless as Marla herself. Dinklage is great as Roman, who sees in Marla a worthy opponent who perhaps can become an opportunity. The corruption runs deep, and its ugly to its core, yet to Marla and Roman, it's a thing of beauty. Ug.

Anna Marla is so hateable, so unapologetically disgusting, so reprehensible—Pike gives us a character we love to hate. I always check out the Rotten Tomatoes scores after watching a movie to see how it fared with both audiences and critics. Well, let's just say that audiences did not enjoy watching evil on screen—it comes in at a paltry 36 percent, while the critics' score is a much more respectable 80 percent. I'm with the critics on this one. While watching these characters make ugly, selfish, ruthless moves isn't a pleasant affair, both Dinklage and Pike deliver deliciously dastardly characters that are so fun to root against. Wiest is wonderful as always here. Marla messed with the wrong woman, and Wiest's Jennifer has fun messing with her even from her drug-induced stupor. The tragic part of this film is that it's just a magnifying glass on things that most assuredly happen in the system every day. Marla and her cohorts didn't know Jennifer had a son, and if she hadn't, she would have wound up just another photo on the wall of Marla's victims. It's a sad reality, pumped-up Hollywood style and turned into a dark comedy.

Glen It is pretty hard to watch. Wiest's Jennifer is certainly the most likeable character, mainly because she's feisty, but let's face it: Even she's pretty flawed. She's fine with her criminal son and the spoils that go along with it, such as millions in cash and diamonds in a safety deposit box that Marla gains control of. I think, too, the ending may be a bit much for most audiences. It comes out of nowhere! Well, not nowhere, but it doesn't have much to do with the main storyline of Marla, Jennifer, and Roman. I don't want to give anything away, but the ending is both satisfying and somewhat hollow. I wanted more comeuppance for Marla. It's pretty horrible that the elderly are so easily warehoused and forgotten, and that the system doesn't do enough to protect them. The film also hits home during these pandemic days, when COVID-19 sweeps through nursing homes and kills off residents, who, even if they're lucky enough to have caring relatives, are excluded from seeing them out of fear of disease transmission. This is a dark comedy for our dark days, and personally I'm looking forward to coming out of this tunnel, and watching a film in a theater—maybe even an insipid summer blockbuster. Sounds grand.

Anna Ah, yes. Just think, soon enough we'll be able to watch a new movie on a screen bigger than our home televisions! A dream come true to be sure! I definitely was also hoping for a big ol' revenge on Marla and her nastiness, and while I got a piece of what I wanted, it still didn't quite satisfy. The fun here lies in letting yourself embrace the true awfulness of the characters and jumping on for the ride. If you're anything like me, you're going to want to punch the screen more than a few times for sure. I've had a few people ask if we've watched this one yet, and when I say yes, what follows is a tumble of words akin to, "Oh my god, do you believe what happened? Isn't she like the worst??? Wasn't Dinklage amazing?? Don't you want to just burn them all to the ground?!?" It may not be good feelings that the film is giving its audience, but it is definitely making them feel something! Don't watch the trailer before this one; just let it all come with the shock and awe of a first viewing. Δ

Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey and freelancer Anna Starkey write Split Screen. Glen compiles streaming listings. Comment at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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