The idea of being anything older than 35, even 30 really, instills the kind of dread that can only come from living in a society that values youth and beauty and measures success by how much you can get done in a short period of time. Oh, you didn’t start a “million-dollar” company in your early twenties because your dad doesn’t own Quicken Loans and can’t be one of its major investors? What a shame, you should really work on that; the American Dream only comes from hard work, you know — and a little bit of cheating, of course. This latter point is abundantly clear in Netflix’s newest film, “I Care a Lot.”
Starring Rosamund Pike (“Radioactive”) as Marla Grayson, “I Care a Lot” chronicles the financial success of Grayson in the world of legal guardianship. Since Americans worship productivity, it’s not surprising that older citizens are treated as cash vaults, waiting for the right person to take advantage of them and funnel all of their money somewhere else. It seems ridiculous, but a quick visit to the State Bar of Michigan website makes it obvious that legal guardianship is not something out of a movie, but a very real money-making avenue.
Legal considerations aside, “I Care a Lot” is a classic story of the antihero: Marla takes advantage of the patriarchal system set before her by using her outwardly demure appearance to get what she wants in the courtroom. Marla is one of the better two-faced characters and in Pike, we see a versatile actress moving seamlessly from a warm and worried caretaker in the courtroom to a ruthless and money-hungry financier. Her attitude, posture and general presence are of the kind often seen in stories like “The Wolf of Wall Street,” not in stories about a gay woman at the height of her career. “I Care a Lot” is the kind of con movie where you’re not even sure the characters are being conned because everything is legal, if not the most ethically sound.
It’s in this line between ethicality and legality — of what’s allowed versus what’s right — where “I Care a Lot” really hits its stride. Regardless of the issues we might have with insurance, it’s clear that Grayson Guardianships, Marla’s company, would not be a business without the help of nursing home directors and family doctors: two kinds of people you’d hope would have your best interests at heart. But humans chase money, and not everyone can be an award-winning surgeon or a hedge fund manager, so they settle for taking advantage of the vulnerable. For them, each person represents a transaction instead of a life: $3,000 a month in rent instead of a person who needs a home.
At first, “I Care a Lot” comes across as a film that wants to remind its audience how dangerous the pursuit of money can be and how an attitude that values profit over everything can backfire. The beginning depicts Marla as cold and heartless, veiled under a thin guise of confidence meant to keep men and their threats at bay. This anti-greed warning heightens when her success hits a breaking point with her latest client’s serious hidden baggage.
But as the story progresses and Marla stands her ground in the face of ridiculous obstacles, it’s hard not to applaud her success. Saturated in comforting warm tones, with the smooth timbre of Rosamund Pike and Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”) planning their next move, it’s almost easy to forget that they’re treating people like stocks, draining them of their life savings. And as a result of this almost-ignorance, and Netflix’s continuous use of the VSCO C1 filter on all its films, “I Care a Lot” underscores a certain sentimentality for the kind of callous conviction necessary to make it in this world.
Daily Arts Writer Emma Chang can be reached at email@example.com.