'I Care a Lot': The Shocking True Stories Behind the Netflix Movie

I Care a Lot is the latest movie to hit the top of the Netflix charts, with viewers finding themselves shockingly compelled by the actions of the villainous guardian Marla Grayson (played by Rosamund Pike) and the rest of the movie's gruesome parade of horrible people.

Many of Marla's actions seem like the fevered imaginings of a Hollywood screenwriter trying to write a truly despicable villain, as she forces vulnerable old people under her conservatorship and then steals from them.

Marla's business, however, has some parallels with some real-life stories of elder abuse.

As director J. Blakeson explained in an interview with Netflix, "It started when I saw news stories about real-life predatory guardians who game the system and exploit their wards. And I was horrified.

"Imagine opening your door one day and there is a person standing there holding a piece of paper that gives them total legal power over you. That idea terrified me—and seemed very relevant right now. It plugged into themes that I am interested in exploring —themes about the power of authority, about people vs profit, control vs freedom, humanity vs bureaucracy. It reminded me of Kafka's The Trial​. I knew I had to explore it."

i care a lot true story
'I Care a Lot' and its story of elder abuse was inspired by some real cases. Netflix

It should be noted that Marla is a totally fictional character, and the events of I Care a Lot are also fabricated.

However, some inspiration for the movie seems to have come from "The Takeover," a story for the New Yorker written by writer Rachel Aviv published in 2017 (which runs on the publication's website under the headline, "How the elderly lose their rights."

One early section of this article, for example, has a number of similarities with the scene in I Care a Lot in which Marla arrives at Jennifer Pieterson's (Dianne Wiest) house, telling her she has to move out as she has been put under Marla's guardianship:

"A stocky woman with shiny black hair introduced herself as April Parks, the owner of the company A Private Professional Guardian. She was accompanied by three colleagues, who didn't give their names. Parks told the Norths that she had an order from the Clark County Family Court to 'remove' them from their home. She would be taking them to an assisted-living facility. 'Go and gather your things,' she said."

Parks has become the most famous example of a guardian who abused her position. In January 2019, Parks was sentenced to 16 to 40 years after pleading guilty to two counts of elder exploitation, two counts of theft, and one count of perjury. In court, one of her victims called her "a predator of the worst kind."

Though there is some of Parks in the DNA of Marla, she could not be said to be the direct inspiration for the character. Parks, for example, has never been engaged in an escalating war of violence with a powerful underworld figure. And, in fact, some of the details of Parks' real case may have been too dark even for I Care a Lot. During her trial, for example, it was revealed that a storage container had been found featuring dozens of urns belonging to people who had been under the protection of Parks.

I Care a Lot is streaming now on Netflix.