Writer-director J Blakeson takes EW inside his latest film, which also stars Eiza Gonzalez, Peter Dinklage, Dianne Wiest, and Chris Messina.

By Lauren Huff
August 12, 2020 at 08:30 AM EDT
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Courtesy of TIFF

Writer and director J Blakeson got the idea for his latest crime thriller, I Care a Lot, from watching the news.

The film follows a legal conservator (Rosamund Pike) and her partner (Eiza Gonzalez) who run a scam on elderly clients. Things go horribly awry when their seemingly perfect new target (Dianne Wiest) is not who she appears to be. And while the film's crazy twists and turns are fictional, the crime at its center most definitely is not.

Blakeson recalls being "appalled and horrified" by reports of elder care abuse, and not being able to get them out of his head. "The idea of somebody just coming around to your house with a piece of paper that gives them absolute power over you, that's just terrifying," he tells EW. "And that was something I couldn't shake, so I sat down to write about it."

The filmmaker says he started researching reports of such cases and fell down a "rabbit hole" of sorts because scams on the elderly are so common. Instead of "bemoaning" the sadness of it all, as he puts it, Blakeson saw an opportunity to make something a bit more thrilling. "I wanted to do something where we could explore this sort of terrifying thing, but through a guise that is more darkly satirical, so you're sort of disturbed from the inside out rather than just being shocked and appalled," he says.

The result is a film filled with ruthless characters, none more so than Pike's character, Marla Grayson. For Pike and Blakeson, the trick to getting the tone of the character right came down to her ambition. "From films like Whiplash or Rocky or Wolf of Wall Street, films about ambition mostly tend to be about men," he says. "We really struggled to find a lot of stories like that about ambitious female characters that weren't sort of femme fatales. From early on, we didn't want to make her a femme fatale, we just wanted to make her ambitious, because she was smart, and she was good, and she was capable, and she was ruthless and amoral in that way."

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This idea that people are neither fully bad nor fully good pervades the film, but is also more universal, according to Blakeson. "I think you can sort of find yourself like that with people you know. You really like them, then you find something out about them that makes you go, 'Well, surely they can't be like that,'" he says. "And then you find out they are, and you're like, 'Oh, that's weird, because they seemed fine to me.' And often that's not the case. Your friends can surprise you both ways."

Ultimately, he hopes the film and its morally ambiguous characters stick with people and spark conversations. "People hopefully will be arguing about various parts of the film," he says.

"I just want for it to stay with people and for people to talk about it and not really feel like there's sort of a big overall message apart from, you know, perhaps exploiting people for money is wrong," he adds with a laugh.

I Care a Lot, which also stars Peter Dinklage and Chris Messina, will debut at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. See Pike, Gonzalez, and Wiest in an exclusive first look at the film above.

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