Rosamund Pike and Peter Dinklage give great performances in a mediocre that isn’t saying nearly as much as it thinks it is.
The movie follows Marla Grayson played by Rosamund Pike. She is a professional care giver and legal guardian to dozens of elderly people. She takes legal guardianship of those with dementia and declining mental health. She ticks them away in a Carr facility. She sells their property and drains their bank accounts until they die.
The problem of abuse within the guardianship system is very real in this country. People are having their freedom taken away and their finances ruined by a deeply flawed system.
The movie vividly depicts this system of abuse in its opening half hour in which Marla finds Jennifer Peterson, played by Diane Wiest. Jennifer is getting older, but she’s lucid and in control of herself. But that doesn’t stop Jennifer’s doctor from declaring Jennifer unwell and in need of help after Marla pays her off.
This early depiction of the guardian system is horrifying. I was in knots watching this woman’s life get dismantled by these people. knowing that this kind of thing happens in real life gave it so much more weight and horror for me.
Unfortunately the movie diverts from reality from there. I try not to spoil things in my review, but I’m probably going to get into spoiler territory from here on out.
It turns out that Jennifer has ties to the Russian mafia. Peter Dinklage is the head of the mafia and wants her out of Marla’s control. The rest of the film is a battle of wills between Marla and Dinklage.
The movie launches headfirst into thriller territory and it totally lost me. It squandered so much potential to tell a real story about the human cost of this kind of amoral greed, but it went the fantastical route. There are scenes of mob bosses making big threats and torturing people. There’s a gunfight in an old folks home. There’s a scene stolen straight from Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. The movie could have said so much about the guardian system and instead turns into a generic crime thriller.
It’s especially generic in the way it’s shot. This is some of the most bland cinematography I’ve ever seen. Everything is shot in bright even lighting. There is no style to any of the shots. It’s just mediums and closeups in generic daylight. Toward the end there are some night shots, but even these are shot with bland light. There’s not subjective camera work or story telling going on.
This is indicative of a bigger problem for me. The movie seems to have no point of view. It doesn’t condemn the guardian program. It doesn’t look down on its protagonists or even its antagonists. Peter Dinklage is involved in drug smuggling and human trafficking, but he isn’t depicted as evil or even scary. Marla does horrible things, and her only justification is that she wants to be rich. and she’s supposed to be our hero! Maybe this lack of point of view is supposed to be some kind of statement, but it doesn’t feel like it. And whatever message is totally unclear which nullifies it.
All that said Rosamund Pile really is fantastic as Marla. She is an awful person, yet she’a vividly watchable. She’s charming and engaging despite her villainy. She gives a wonderful person in a movie that doesn’t deserve her.
This movie really isn’t my cup of tea. It squanders its opportunity to say something and it stumbles as a thriller. It has a Golden Globe nominated performance from Pike, but otherwise there’s not much here. It’s currently streaming on Netflix if you want to check it out, but I think you can skip it. C+