The answer is largely all of the people who do this in real life.
Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike) is a con-artist who makes her living by convincing the law to give her guardianship over elderly people, allowing her to shove them in assisted-living facilities from which she cuts off all outside contact. She is assisted by her former police officer girlfriend Fran (Elza Gonzalez), assisted living manager Sam Rice (Damian Young), and Karen Amos (Alicia Witt), the doctor who fabricates many diagnoses in order to convince the court, specifically the aloof Judge Lomax (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.), to permit Marla to take care of these people. After she runs her scam and commits a woman named Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest) against her will, Marla discovers that Jennifer may not be who she seems. In fact, she may be connected to a former mob boss named Roman Lunyov (Peter Dinklage) who does not like having her inside of the facility and is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to get her out. Unfortunately, he may be underestimating Marla’s greed.
I would like to start off by saying that Rosamund Pike and Peter Dinklage are great in this film. So great that you genuinely find yourself wanting to see more of them, despite the fact that their characters are two of the worst people you could put on film without moving into gore porn. Roman is a mob boss whose reputation and behavior makes it pretty clear that he will murder almost anyone that gets in the way. However, in this particular situation, he is actually not in the wrong, since Marla has manipulated the legal system to essentially imprison Jennifer. Moreover, Marla keeps making Jennifer’s life miserable just to punish her for Roman’s actions, which makes getting her out seem more justified. It’s telling that in a movie where one of the characters is a murderer, that you would have difficulty determining which of the two is more ruthless and evil. After all, we see how horribly Marla treats Jennifer before she even finds out about Roman, and we can assume that she treats the dozens of people under her care exactly like that. If so, she is perhaps hurting people more than if she just shot them in the head.
The key to this movie is that both sides keep pushing each other and refusing to back down, even when they’re each expecting the other two. Marla is offered several hundred thousand dollars to just let Jennifer go, but she stands firm with wanting millions, even when it’s clear that Roman will eventually move from the carrot to the stick in a very final way. Roman seems constantly surprised and upset over Marla’s complete lack of fear of him or his reputation. For both of these people, it’s obvious that the only thing that will ever stop them is if one of them gets a bullet through the heart. It doesn’t help that Marla often seems to try and justify her actions as being the only way to get ahead as a woman, or perhaps as a gay woman, which kind of fails as a feminist message.
It makes it even more tragic when you realize that, while people like Roman are hunted by most of society and forced to work in the shadows, Marla’s grift is completely legal and likely practiced by thousands of people across this country. Sure, there are likely a lot of people who do care for the elderly and treat them with respect and dignity, but a short search about nursing home bad practices indicates that there are a lot that don’t, too. Even when caught, they usually get fined less than the amount of money they made off of the mistreatment, so, much like this film, the only thing that might ever stop them is confronting someone who won’t let the legality get in the way of morality. Or legislation, if we weren’t governed by assholes (if you’re not from the US, apologies, maybe you’re not governed by assholes. But you probably are).
Overall, it’s a good movie, but it will probably not leave you with a great feeling at the end.
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