“I Care a Lot”–Caregiver or Caretaker?

In this Netflix original movie, I Care a Lot, the highly successful court-appointed guardian, Marla Grayson (the astonishing Rosamund Pike of “Gone Girl” fame), masterminds a scheme to being appointed guardian of  wealthy elderly patients by the state court.   Marla is charged with  caring for the elderly who are identified by doctors as incompetent to manage their own health needs, daily living and assets.

Marla and her partner Fran (Eiza González) run a highly profitable hustle –a guardianship grift of elderly “wards of the state”.  To the judge who appoints her to be caregiver, she appears as highly professional, extraordinarily articulate, and convincing in asserting her qualifications. On first appearance, the onlooker sees a measured, seemingly trustworthy advocate for eldercare.    But underneath that veneer and polish, Marla is abusing a legal system by targeting wealthy seniors that actually aren’t incompetent,  throwing them in care facilities and assuming absolute control of their assets.  She understands this  system better than most: how she can manipulate (and sometimes) bribe doctors and the courts to her advantage,   essentially kidnapping the elderly, robbing them of  their assets, and separating them forever from their families.   She’s not a caregiver, not a caretaker.  She’s neither.  Marla’s an irresolute taker.

And then the “cherry”–Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest in an unforgettable performance)  is introduced to them by an unscrupulous physician.  A “cherry” is a very wealthy old person with no family or friends to look out for them, ready for the picking.  But,  unexpected trouble arises when Jennifer Peterson is not who she seems.  A very difficult “cherry” indeed.   The  predatory guardians, Marla and Fran, soon become the prey.

Unfortunately for Marla, Jennifer has an undisclosed and mysterious relationship with a powerful mobster (the delightfully malevolent Peter Dinklage from “Game of Thrones”) who will go to great lengths to protect Jennifer.  He releases her from Marla’s clutches.

It’s a stomach-churning ride with a lot of venom and dismay that people assigned to be guardians for the most vulnerable may get away with highly irregular, if not criminal behavior.   Resources are stretched allowing the court-appointed caregivers to  conceal bad acts  because they are  trusted.

They come in and steal under false pretenses and strip the victim of all credibility.   And Rosamund Pike’s and Peter Dinklage’s twitchy, angry staggering performances menace one another in a vicious death spiral. Until the very end of I Care a Lot the viewer is treated to unexpected twists and turns, in one traumatic scene after another.

What is most unsettling about I Care a Lot , however, is the picture it presents of eldercare:  Just park them, rob them, and then move on to the next one.  What seems like a  con game — a gangster’s operation–is taking advantage of loopholes in the law.  Watching Marla game the system to her own ends is far from comforting.  The viewer has to ask:  Is this amoral predator behavior really widespread?  Is the eldercare/guardianship system  susceptible  to people like Marla and Fran to manipulate? Do some guardians stretch the rules as far as they possibly can?

Make sure your parents and grandparents are protected at all costs!  I Care a Lot  is a cautionary tale for all of us!

Availability:  On Netflix streaming and Golden Globe-nominated for a best film.

“Master of None”—But Loads of Fun


Master of None

Could there be any comedic boundaries left following Amy Schumer and Louie CK? The answer is yes! Master of None, in ten half-hour episodes (a Netflix original), we see an extraordinary depiction of New York life created by Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang (both from “Parks and Recreations”). , I’ve only seen two episodes so far (the series premiered on November 6), and I’m hooked.

Dev (Ansari’s character) is a wannabe actor relegated to trying out for commercials. His friends are also grappling with jobs, love life, and trying not to be losers. In raw yet disarming dialogue, Master of None begins to eviscerate the vision of New York life for a thirty-something single guy of color.

In Episode One Dev and his meet-up, someone he barely knows, are Googling on their cell phones, to learn what to do since his condom broke. So much for the romance of the moment. Impressive in conveying anxiety, lack of experience, and decency, Dev and the girl friend, Rachel (the charming Noel Wells), navigate the awkwardness of the moment with an endearing concern for each other. Nobility of character—in a comedy.

Episode Two raises the question:   Do we ever really know our parents? As immigrants, the parents are even further removed: not only by age but by culture. But this episode is not just another “adult children think their immigrant parents are old codgers from the old country” story. In a touching, but not maudlin, restaurant scene we see, in self-assured writing, the Taiwanese parents’ of Brian, Dev’s friend, connecting with Dev’s Indian parents  (played by Ansari’s father and mother). Dev and Brian are incredulous at seeing this side of their parents.

In a series of flashbacks we see the hardships of the immigrant parents’ childhood contrasted in raw and unsparing scenes with their privileged sons’ New York lifestyle. These scenes are deeply affecting, not only for the first-generation/second generation experience but for how we all, in some way, are strangers to each other. And knowing that Ansari’s parents are playing the roles of Dev’s father and mother makes these scenes even more intimate and moving.

Not only immigration, but race, impacts the two friends’ daily lives. There is no beating around the bush. Ansari is particularly scathing about racial stereotyping.   And turns it on its head. In the first episode, when Dev meets Rachel’s grandmother, he is expecting her to be put off because he is of Indian descent.  She isn’t. When Ansari seems a bit surprised, the grandmother retorts: “You think because I’m an old white lady, I’m racist?!”

And “Master of None” continues being a lot of fun…without sermonizing but without letting us off the hook either.

Now on to Episode Three.