When Rosamund Pike accepted her Golden Globe for her performance in I Care a Lot, she quipped in her speech, “Maybe I just have to thank America’s broken legal system for making it possible to make stories like this.”
And by “stories like this” she means the new Netflix thriller directed by J Blakeson, which follows Marla Grayson, a legal-appointed guardian for the elderly who scams away their assets for her own profit. I Care a Lot is packaged in dark humor (Pike’s Best Actress win was in the Musical or Comedy category) but the reality behind it uncovers a bleak, ugly truth.
The concept for the film “started when I saw news stories about real-life predatory guardians who game the system and exploit their wards,” Blakeson said in the press notes for the film. “And I was horrified.”
He added, “I went down this Google rabbit-hole reading lots of news stories and became horrified about the terrible things that so many of them were doing—especially given that most of their actions existed in a legal loophole.” Blakeson’s research led him to explore themes of ambition, the American Dream, and humans becoming commodities, he explained. So, he wrote the film.
Marla’s character and the exact story in I Care a Lot is fictional, but there seem to be parallels with real-life crimes. Newsweek points out an actual legal guardian named April Parks, known as the “most famous example of a guardian who abused her position.” Parks, who financially preyed on elderly wards for years, was exposed in a New Yorker story in 2017. In January 2019, she was sentenced to 16 to 40 years in prison. “April Parks is a predator of the worst kind,” one of her victims had said at the time of the ruling.
Although Parks is now serving time, there’s no undoing the permanent mess she created as a scamming legal guardian. With her victims locked in guardianship for life, many of them were left committed to nursing homes or under severe medication, Esquire notes.
About one in 10 Americans aged over 60 experience some kind of elder abuse, and only one in 14 cases report them, according to the National Council on Aging. In 2018, the Senate Aging Committee called to reform the guardianship system in the U.S. after troubling cases about American seniors in abusive guardianships arose.
“An estimated 1.3 million adults are under the care of guardians—family members or professionals—who control approximately $50 billion of their assets,” Senator Susan Collins said in a statement. “Guardianship is a legal relationship created by a court that is designed to protect those with diminished or lost capacity. We found, however, that in many cases, the system lacks basic protections leaving the most vulnerable Americans at risk of exploitation.”