I Care a Lot is a great satire on capitalism today. Specifically, it is an allegory for the increasingly open and violent split between the ruling class’ two main wings: its liberal ‘progressive’ wing; and its conservative one – as seen in recent years with Brexit and with Trump’s Capitol storming and impeachment trial.
The film is about a very real scandal: that of care homes and legal guardianships.
In the US, there is a legal guardianship ‘industry’ (a racket, in reality). This is based around finding vulnerable elderly people by means of a friendly doctor; using the doctor’s note to get a court to declare that they are unable to care for themselves (all without the knowledge of said person, who therefore cannot defend themselves in court); and promptly whisking them off to a care home with no prior warning. After this, the person’s assets are sold off to pay for the whole enterprise.
The title of this film, I Care a Lot, ironically refers to the scale of such scams, which are sufficiently large to generate a life of luxury for the nauseating legal guardians.
This role, played here by Rosamund Pike, represents the smiling, hypocritical face of liberal, ‘progressive’ capitalism. As the title says, she cares a lot. Her whole life is, from the outside, dedicated to caring for society’s most vulnerable people; and all of this is done thoroughly legally. The reality, of course, is not just the ruthless search for profit, but outright gangsterism – quite literally.
The choice of profession for this crook is perfect. Not only is her work legal and apparently highly ethical (whilst, in fact, being the extreme opposite); but it is emblematic of the rotten state of capitalism today – that is, a system kept alive by finding profit in the privatisation of whatever service the state used to, or ought to, provide. Nothing of value is produced here in her industry; only the selling off of existing wealth.
The film takes an unexpected turn when our protagonist (named Marla) comes across someone far less vulnerable than they first appear. This introduces her to another capitalist; this one an open gangster, who represents the other side of the capitalist class – its explicitly racist, sexist, and openly reactionary wing.
At one point the two characters have a conversation in which the gangster’s lawyer scoffs at Marla’s phoney use of female identity to mask her cruelty and greed. He exposes her hypocrisy brilliantly, telling her:“If your whole enterprise isn’t the perfect embodiment of the American dream, I don’t know what is.”
Identity vs class
An anti-identity politics theme is clear. Marla cynically uses her female identity to appear in court as more caring, and therefore more believable. The doctor who is in on her scam is a woman, and she tells a man who challenges her early on:
“Does it sting more because I’m a woman? That you got so soundly beaten in [court] by someone with a vagina? Having a penis does not automatically make you more scary to me, just the opposite. You may be a man, but if you ever threaten, touch, or spit on me again, I will grab your dick and balls, and I will rip them clean off.”
The point is not that women are the enemy and all men are progressive, of course. Indeed, all of the victims of her scam are women, and there are plenty of greedy and reactionary men involved in the plot as well. The point, instead, is a class one: the man challenging her is an ordinary working class man, whereas Marla drives a Ferrari.
The film is correctly saying that the battle between these two wings of the ruling class is superficial – it is merely over who gets to be richest. In the end, the real threat to Marla comes not from the rich gangster she is so fixated on defeating, but from the working-class people she exploits but never considers a threat.