Netflix’s I Care A Lot earns top marks

Samira Kassem

Photo: Wikimedia

 

Within recent years there has been a growing category of thriller films based around anti-capitalist symbolism. Think: Parasite (2019), Snowpiercer (2013) and Sorry to Bother You (2018). Now, add to the list Netflix’s I Care A Lot . The film from director, producer and screenwriter J Blakeson was released exclusively on Netflix February 14. 

Blakeson’s prior work such as The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009) and Kidnapping Stella (2019) are highly-rated thrillers but do not have the same political undertones as this most recent work.I was not expecting the level of symbolism and societal critique that I was hit with. 

I find the three films mentioned above to be some of the greatest I have ever watched so for this one to be mentioned among them is no small feat. Also, strong symbolic critiques of capitalism that do so without losing entertainment value are my favorite types of movies. After all, complete political nerds like me make up only a small portion of Netflix’s viewers so entertainment value beyond these themes is vital to a successful film. 

I Care A Lot follows ruthless girl-boss Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike) through her job as a professional court-appointed guardian. It’s within the first few minutes of the film that the viewer learns that Grayson is a corrupt and slimey individual who makes a fortune off of taking advantage of the seniors she is supposed to be caring for. 

In one of the first scenes she is in a courtroom convincing a judge that an elderly person she is caring for should not be able to see her son. As she struts down the courthouse steps, the son approaches her telling her how vile she is to take advantage of the elderly and, in one of the most striking lines of the film says “I hope you get raped.” Her response is in true “girl-boss” fashion as she accuses him of being sexist and threatens to rip his penis and balls off with her bare hands. 

This scene is powerful to me because in our current society that is hyper-focused on being “woke”, we often lose sight of who our real enemies are. We should not be more focused on what the son said in expression of his anger–even if it was a very messed up thing to say to someone–but on what it is that Grayson is doing to all of these people. 

She then meets up with her girlfriend and business partner (Eiza González) to head to her expensive looking office where she has a wall of photographs of the seniors that are her current “clients”. You find out that, not only is she taking advantage of the legal system and the seniors forced into it herself, but she has a doctor (Alicia Witt) and the owner of a senior care facility (Damian Young) in on it as well. 

The trio has a system that they have clearly been using for years prior to the film. The doctor writes out an affidavit calling for an emergency hearing to appoint a state guardian to an elderly person by exaggerating or fabricating symptoms of dementia that would not allow the person to care for themself. Grayson then steps in, sells their property and makes tons of money. She even has the senior home owner giving the individuals sedatives and barring them from seeing their family in order to maintain the narrative that the person is unfit to care for themself. 

I felt such a deep hatred for Marla and every detail of her character was so well written. From her sleek blonde bob to her expensive clothes and sunglasses to the fact that she carries around a giant vape, she really is the classic white feminist “more women should be CEO’s” girl-boss. And of course she is a lesbian too so she can’t POSSIBLY be problematic. A slight detail I loved was that her girlfriend and business partner had that one basic cross tattoo on the side of her wrist. You know the one that all the white girls have. Need I say more? Everything about Grayson’s character sets up the film to be the most perfect critique on neoliberal identity politics that I can imagine. 

Photo: Alamy

Fast forward a bit and Grayson is in a meeting with the doctor who tells her that she has found their latest “cherry” or elderly person with a lot of money, no living family members and minimal health issues so they can live for a long time. This is when Grayson is appointed legal guardian of Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest), who, it is clear to the viewer, is 100 percent capable of caring for herself. Little does Grayson know, Peterson has connections to a prominent member of the Russian mafia (Peter Dinklage). 

This twist that no one could have seen coming turns the movie into a true thriller. The viewer wants Grayson to die so badly because she is such a slimy person but that means they end up cheering for a gangster. In the end, Grayson is just as bad as the gangster even if she is making her money mostly legally. You are left on the edge of your seat as Grayson keeps surviving attempted killings as you get more and more angry that she will not just die already. 

The message of the story is truly that white women and LGBTQ+ women and any woman can be just as corrupt as a man and that any neoliberal identity politics which do not consider the role of class in our society are truly useless. It shows that “more female CEOs” just means more oppression of the working class and that symbolic gestures by rich and powerful figures completely miss the point. 

Grayson ends up on TV giving interviews about how she made it to the top with “hard work” when we, as the viewer, know that she could only get there on the backs of others. It is all a critique of late-stage capitalism that is so painfully realistic in so many ways. For every horrible thing that Grayson does the viewer has a corporation or individual in their mind that has done something similar in real life. 

Blakeson has really created something special here. The characters are all very well written and the message is loud and clear without losing the thriller and entertainment aspects of the film. I do think Blakeson is going to get some backlash from some girl-boss white feminists but I also think that those people will be proving his point. This film is a call to stop focusing on being “woke” and start focusing on the ways that the rich and powerful are taking advantage of all of us under capitalism. 

In terms of the acting, Pike’s portrayal of Marla Grayson was so good that I felt a slight twinge of hatred towards the actress forgetting that she is not actually the person she was portraying. Dinklage, as always, was incredible as well, showing us that even the disabled can be rich and powerful enemies of the working class. The second the film ended I texted several of my friends that it is an absolute must watch. 

The film provides the perfect balance of intellectual stimulation and entertainment value that I thoroughly enjoyed. For these reasons I easily give I Care A Lot from J Blakeson five out of five stars.