Turns out, Marla Grayson did play fair at one point.
Rosamund Pike leads J Blakeson’s I Care a Lot as Marla Grayson. On the surface, one might believe that Marla is a stand-up court-appointed guardian looking to help those in need but really, Marla’s busy finding loopholes in the system to best serve herself. With the help of a local doctor, Marla targets elderly individuals and convinces the court to place them under her care. Then she puts them in a care facility, even if they don’t need to be in one, so that she can assume control of their assets and reap the benefits. Marla’s brimming with confidence and thinks she’s totally in control until she targets the wrong ward – Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest), a woman with ties to a mobster (Peter Dinklage).
All along the way, Marla is busy sucking on a vape pen. As Pike herself put it, it’s a prop that gives Marla a mighty appropriate “dragon quality.” Given the fact that the vape pen is such an active prop throughout the film, I had to ask Pike about incorporating it in her performance when we got the chance to chat ahead of the film’s February 19th Netflix release. While it is a very striking component in the film, I didn’t expect vaping to be so important to Marla’s backstory. Here’s how Pike explained it:
“The backstory of Marla is that she had a vape business until she was Walmart-ed out of business by a great big discount vape store opening across the street, which she was furious about. I think that was her shot at the American dream played fair. She had a small-time business, she was a small-time business owner, she got screwed and then she thought, ‘Right. Chips are down. I’m going all out. I’m gonna play the system like everybody else.’ And I think every time she inhales, it’s bringing that attitude to it. It’s the attitude of having been screwed and now you’re out to screw everybody.”
Pike was quick to point out that such a trajectory wouldn’t be the case for everyone who felt they’d been screwed by corporate American:
“Not everyone would react like Marla does. I think she’s got that sort of self-centered pride that means that she doesn’t believe she should be screwed over. She deserves better. She won’t be. Like she says, ‘I won’t lose. I don’t lose.’”
If you haven’t seen I Care a Lot just yet, be sure to check out Matt Goldberg’s review of the film from the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival, which will likely up the urgency to give a watch on Netflix. But, if you have seen it already, I can confirm the movie is highly rewatchable and the awareness of this vape backstory adds a curious layer to Marla’s motivation and journey.
At long last, we’ve met the Big Bad of the Disney+ series.
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