Is It a True Story? Director J Blakeson Explains
J Blakeson made quite the impression when his feature directorial debut, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, screened at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival. Not only is it an impressive first feature, but that also happened to be one of my very first film festivals, so the creators I met there became ones I absolutely had to continue following. In 2016, Blakeson was scooped up to helm a highly anticipated young adult book adaptation for Sony, The 5th Wave starring Chloe Grace Moretz. While that one didn’t exactly pan out as hoped, it was an invaluable experience for Blakeson, especially when it came to highlighting the importance of directing a film and writing the script as well. And now guess what? He’s doing just that with his newest feature, I Care a Lot, an absolute must-see now streaming on Netflix.
Rosamund Pike leads the movie as Marla Grayson, a woman who appears to be a total saint. She’s got a thriving business, a way with words and appears to care a lot for others by working as a court-appointed guardian for elderly individuals in need. But the thing is, behind the scenes, Marla’s actually busy abusing the system by targeting wards that don’t really need her, throwing them in care facilities and then assuming control of their assets.
It’s a shocking scenario that no doubt will leave you wondering if this is something that really happens, so that’s the first question I had to pose to Blakeson. Here’s what he said:
“In Marla’s approach, a lot of it happens unfortunately. It’s true to life in the fact that there are lots of these predatory guardians who do pray on vulnerable and elderly people, and sort of entrap them in these guardianships and basically sort of strip their life apart. The true life stories of it are really quite harrowing and horrifying so unfortunately, yeah, it does happen.”
Blakeson didn’t intend for I Care a Lot to be an expose on such a scam. Rather, he wanted the film to serve as an example of what could happen in a world where you have the utmost trust in the people you already know – or think you know. Blakeson pinpointed one true quality of such con artists that didn’t fully make it into the film:
“One thing we spoke about while we were making the film, I spoke to Rosamund about, you sort of get a sense of it, but it didn’t really make the final film, which is if you met Marla in real life, at say a party or something, you’d just think, ‘Well, she’s very attractive, very well put together, well dressed. She seems to have a great, caring relationship with her girlfriend. She’s got great taste. Her office is beautiful and she’s kind of smart. She seems [like] a really great person.’ And then you would ask her, ‘What do you do for a living?’ She goes, ‘Well, you know, I take care of elderly people.’ And you think, ‘This lady’s great! She’s a saint!’ But, you know, part of that thing of people looking to the world as if they’re good people who do good things, but actually there’s lots of bad things underneath the hood I think is something very true of that world and true of lots of different people in positions of authority who get away with a lot because people just trust them because, ‘Oh, they’re the guy that we know!’ So there’s that element that didn’t quite make it into the film, but I think is very true.”
Another true quality of this kind of operation? The legality of it, and that’s something that inspired Blakeson to have Marla target the wrong ward, Dianne Wiest’s Jennifer Peterson, a woman with ties to a gangster who’s actually breaking the law played by Peter Dinklage.
“Marla’s character and these characters in real life sort of struck me as being a little bit like gangsters. They come in and they steal something under false pretenses and then they sort of strip it for parts and then pump all the money out of it they can. Where they’ve got assets, they use those assets and overcharge and overcharge and overcharge, and when they run out of those assets and they get put on to government money, they then just store them in the worst care home. They run through their money as fast as possible, store them in the worst care home and just forget about them. Just park them and then move on to the next one, and that felt almost like a gangster’s operation. And so the idea of taking somebody who’s basically a legal gangster – because there’s not really anything she’s doing that’s totally against the law. She’s overcharging people, but she’s sort of exposing loopholes in the law – running up against somebody who is a gangster and is on the other side of the law felt quite interesting. He has violence and ruthlessness and criminality on his side where she’s on the right side of the law; how different are they? So having the sort of yin and yang of amorality pitted against each other and putting them in a death match of who’s gonna give up first seemed like a bit of a delicious prospect.”
If you’d like to hear more from Blakeson on I Care a Lot and his biggest takeaways from jumping into the studio realm for The 5th Wave, you can check out our full chat in the video interview at the top of this article!
- Does this kind of thing really happen?
- What’s something Blakeson learned about this type of operation that he didn’t have time to include in the final film?
- Blakeson explains why he chose to have Marla target someone affiliated with something bad rather than making Jennifer Peterson a wholly innocent victim.
- How did Blakeson’s experience making a bigger studio project with The 5th Wave influence his goals and priorities as a filmmaker?
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