I never watch horror movies. My imagination doesn’t need any help devising ways that humans can be awful to each other. But there I was, sitting in the dark by myself, watching one of the most frightening movies I’ve seen in ages. I Care A Lot is billed as a dark satire, but my heart rate, my stomach churn, my squirminess all told me that wasn’t so. It is a horror flick, plain and simple.
I was rooting hard that Pike/Grayson would get payback in the nastiest way possible.
Rosamund Pike plays Marla Grayson, a steely scam artist whose con is to get herself appointed as a guardian to one elderly person after another so that she can take control of their finances, sell their homes, supervise their medical care. She works with a crooked doctor who will tell the court that someone is unable to take care of herself or himself so that Grayson can get her hooks in.
Pike just won a Golden Globe for the role, and I can see why. She is breathtakingly amoral and can efficiently bully anyone who gets in her way, even under the nose of a judge whose job it is to protect the elderly she’s abusing.
I Care A Lot: Actually The World Could Care Less
Grayson is netting a nice living through her scam, until she picks on the wrong old person, played deliciously by Dianne Wiest. I was rooting hard that Pike/Grayson would get payback in the nastiest way possible, and I won’t reveal whether she does or not.
But it wasn’t just Grayson’s actions that I found horrifying. It felt like everyone, from the courts to the nursing home employees to jewelry appraisers, was in on the con. They seemed to know exactly what was going on and didn’t give a fig. Old people, even those who actually could take care of themselves, were sedated in nursing homes, without having access to phones or loved ones. Grayson would cagily cast the children as not wanting to spend the money for a good nursing home because they had their eyes on their inheritance.
I simply could not bear to watch this, putting myself in the place of these elders, who had truly lost all control of their lives and their finances to a devious grifter.
The Real Story
By the end of the movie I was truly shaken and immediately went online to research whether this could really happen. I was expecting (hoping) that this the movie was a classic case of Hollywood exaggeration. But what I read made me more distraught.
“Case after case has come to light of elderly people being ripped off in what critics have called a `con game’ that has led to `a silent epidemic of elder abuse,'” read a report in the Huffington Post. One expert on elder abuse said, “In most states around the country, it is easier to qualify as a guardian than it is to become a hairdresser.”
The elderly are victimized under the deception of protection.
The New Yorker documented a court guardian who sounds like the real-life model for Marla Grayson. She removed a couple from their home on the spur of the moment, without even their daughter knowing what happened to them.
In the United States, the New Yorker reported, a million and a half adults are under the care of guardians, either family members or professionals, who control some $273 billion in assets.
To combat this nightmarish scenario, an organization called the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse (NASGA) has formed. “Wards in these circumstances, are victimized under the deception of protection,” the NASGA’s website states. “Strangers are often given total and absolute control of life, liberty, and property of their wards, including being left defenseless and subject to neglect, abuse and/or exploitation by the very people chosen to protect them; they become invisible and voiceless.”
Getting Away With It
I couldn’t sleep the night after watching the movie and learning that the facts were just as bad. I kept imaging myself spending the end of my life trapped in a nursing home, surrounded by people whose eyes were just as dull as mine from the drugs handed out.
If you watch a movie like Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Nightmare on Elm Street, the consolation to all that horrific imagery is that it’s not real. A Freddy Krueger is not on the loose in your town. But there are real Marla Graysons on the prowl, getting away with their crimes. The true horror is if we do nothing about it.