If you were one of the many who watched Hulu's documentary Framing Britney Spears, you were swept up into a necessary reckoning with the rampant misogyny Spears has faced throughout her career, especially during the 2000s. That misogyny culminated in Spears getting placed under a conservatorship, which she's still fighting. Since a conservatorship often requires the person placed under it to surrender almost all control over their life, the move doesn't come without a guardian's consent. In Spears's case, that consent comes from her father.
Britney Spears's conservatorship controversy shares much in common with the central conceit of the conservatorship system portrayed in Netflix's I Care a Lot. The person underneath it has similarly heavy restrictions placed on many of the choices they can make. Some of what's in the film is grounded in reality, with elderly people becoming targets for exploitation by the people supposedly caring for them. The film is most interesting when it's grounded closer to reality, although that interest is fleeting.
The film stars Rosamund Pike as Marla Grayson, a coercive legal guardian intent on preying upon the elderly. She takes control of their finances then subsequently bleeds them dry for her profit and power. It's the closest Pike has come to matching her outstanding performance in 2014's Gone Girl, though the rest of the film around her is not nearly as impressive.
Grayson is working with her business partner and lover Fran (Eiza González), as their next target, Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest), proves to be more than they bargained for. That's because she's the mother of the dangerous, donut-eating, smoothie-drinking Roman Lunyov, who is played by Peter Dinklage in top form.
Unfortunately, the film becomes more crime caper than character study. This evolution requires several narrative contrivances, and the film has to write itself out of a corner repeatedly. Two situations that seem to spell doom for the characters are inexplicably avoided in ways that require a complete suspension of disbelief.
Still, I was invested in the story, even as it got increasingly ridiculous, and even as it grasped for deeper meaning, with Grayson monologuing about how the world is built around "predators and prey." It's fun, but the film never quite decides on what it wants to be.
While thinking back on it, I keep coming to how Framing Britney Spears was able to portray the conservatorship system's threats more compellingly. The fact that it's a documentary helps. But it also suggests a more powerful, pressing question: If this could system can abuse a high-profile celebrity like Britney Spears, what can it do to an average person? I Care a Lot gets points for exploring that potentiality, but it undercuts itself by pursuing a far less focused storyline.
Despite itself, I Care a Lot remains a mostly entertaining ride that gestures at some deeper themes, even if it struggles to get to its conclusion in one piece. If you want a more measured look at what can happen when your life's choices are no longer your own, Framing Britney Spears is a better journey.
You can stream Framing Britney Spears on Hulu and I Care a Lot on Netflix.