Thursday, February 18, 2021

A thriller about some really awful folks


    It must say something about us, but most of us take at least some delight in watching movies about aggressively unprincipled people who enrich themselves at the expense of others.
    In I Care a Lot, Rosamund Pike plays Marla Grayson, a woman who specializes in bilking the elderly by becoming a legal guardian for them. Marla's ideal candidate is a reasonably healthy older person who will live long enough for Marla to drain his or her assets in what amounts to a shockingly cruel helping of court-sanctioned elder abuse.
   As played by Pike, Marla not only excels at her job, she delights in working with corrupt nursing home folks to generate profits for her company. 
   Eiza Gonzalez plays Fran, Marla's live-in lover and devoted assistant, a woman who has learned the tricks of manipulation from a master. The banter between the two amounts to a crash course in insensitivity.
     Screenwriter/director J. Blakeson sets us up to root against Marla. Who, after all, favors stealing from the helpless? 
    Yes, Marla  preys on the defenseless, but there’s always energy to be found in a well-calibrated scheme and Marla prides herself on dotting every "i" and crossing every "t." 
    The story takes an important turn when a nursing home official identifies an easy mark for Marla -- for a cut, of course.
    Snatched from her home, Dianne Wiest's Jennifer soon finds herself in a facility where she's more prisoner than resident. To Marla, Jennifer is a human ATM, a source of wealth that can be tapped for years.
    Jennifer? She's fed drugs, deprived of her cell phone, and stuck in a nightmare.
   Adept at working the legal system, Marla knows how to convince judges that she's a savior to those who otherwise might perish in isolation. Her office is slick. She dresses to kill and all but licks her lips at the prospect of another scam.
   I won't tell you more, but after a while, we learn that Jennifer may not be quite as helpless as we've been led to believe. 
   Blakeson adds a sinister businessman to the mix. Peter Dinklage plays a gangster who wants to liberate Jennifer from the senior facility where she's being held.  No fair telling why. Know though, that Dinklage's character offers Marla $150,000 to give up her claim.
    No dice, says Marla. She wants more.
   At first, Dinklage sends his lawyer (Chris Messina) to "reason" with Marla. When that doesn't work, he resorts to other methods, allowing Blakeson to up the story’s ante and toy with our rooting interests. By the end, we're not sure that any of the movie's principal characters qualify for redemption.
    Blakeson written a tasty scam movie,  infusing it with the kind of sizzle that sets it apart from more perfunctory efforts and he locks Pike and Dinklage in an exhilarating cage match in which neither is shy about going for the jugular.
    Oh, by the way, the movie may make cost you some sleep when you begin to think about what might happen to elderly folks when age robs them of independence — and others are all-too-eager to take advantage of the situation.

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