Directed by J Blakeson (‘The Disappearance of Alice Creed’), ‘I Care a Lot’ is a riveting dark comedy. It revolves around the ruthless and thoroughly unapologetic Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike), who has set up a profitable and legal venture of court-appointed guardianship. With the help of physicians like Dr. Karen Amos (Alicia Witt), Grayson and her associates find victims of their highly-elaborated scam amongst one of the vulnerable sections of society: the elderly. Grayson subsequently convinces the court that their intended victims are not able to take care of themselves.
After the court makes her conservator of these older men and women, she sells their homes, auctions off their belongings, and cleans out their savings. Although the film takes somewhat of an absurd turn after Grayson starts squaring off against former mobster Roman Lunyov (Peter Dinklage), its unsettling first half has enough realistic elements in it to make us wonder whether it is based on real-life events. Here is what we have been able to find out.
Is I Care a Lot Based on a True Story?
No, ‘I Care a Lot’ is not based on a true story. Blakeson wrote the screenplay himself. According to him, the idea originally occurred to him when he started hearing news stories about predatory guardians who are experts at wading through the legal system and use it to rob their victims of their wealth, freedom, and even dignity. Blakeson discovered that such horrifying stories are not that uncommon. So, he began extensive research on the subject, and the script of ‘I Care a Lot’ resulted from it.
Blakeson didn’t want to tell the story from a victim’s perspective, believing that it would be “unbearably awful.” He subsequently decided to tell the story from the culprit’s perspective, adding to the film’s certain unconventionality that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. Pike, while commenting what made her accept Grayson’s role, stated that she was drawn to the character because she (Pike) couldn’t understand her, adding, “My exploration of the character was about digging into [her until] I could own her appetites — her unabashed hunger for wealth, power and all the things I don’t care about.” Pike was so interested that she even told Blakeson that Marla Grayson was the most exciting female character she had read in years.
Despite the pulp and sensational aspects of the plot, especially in the second half, the film makes certain coruscating observations on late capitalism and the society that enables it. Despite the moral repugnancy of her actions, Grayson has turned the entire legal system into a willing accomplice. Unlike Gordon Gekko from Oliver Stone’s ‘Wall Street’ (1987), she doesn’t need to say, “Greed is good.” Her actions throughout the film clearly demonstrate what she believes in.
Another aspect of American society that the film places under its scanner is individualism and underscores how its rigorous pursuit makes the elderlies easy targets for the scammers. As children leave their homes and eventually start their own families, their parents often lead alienated lives, making them perfect candidates for the scams. The first thing that con artists like Grayson do is separate their victims from their families. The scammers then start draining the wealth that their victims have spent their lives accumulating.
Charismatic and articulate con artists like Grayson or Jordan Belfort from ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ (2013) know how to work the system and get desired results. However, as shown above, unlike Belfort, Grayson is completely fictional. Thus, while predatory guardianship is definitely a real thing, the particular story depicted in the film is indeed fictional.
Read More: I Care a Lot Ending, Explained