I Care a Lot ending explained and all your questions answered

Is it based on a true story? Let's dive into I Care a Lot's biggest questions.

Jennifer Bisset Former Senior Editor / Culture
Jennifer Bisset was a senior editor for CNET. She covered film and TV news and reviews. The movie that inspired her to want a career in film is Lost in Translation. She won Best New Journalist in 2019 at the Australian IT Journalism Awards.
Expertise Film and TV Credentials
  • Best New Journalist 2019 Australian IT Journalism Awards
Jennifer Bisset
4 min read

Rosamund Pike won a Golden Globe for her performance as con artist Marla Grayson.

Netflix/Amazon Prime

If you've just finished I Care a Lot, you probably need a moment to let it all sink in. This jam-packed thriller, available on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video depending on your region, has it all: memorable characters, a twist-after-twist plot and Rosamund Pike's invincible Lego haircut. To cap it all off, the story was inspired by real-life events. Let's go through some of I Care a Lot's biggest questions and discuss that shock ending.

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

Where can I stream I Care a Lot?

Depending on your region, you can stream I Care a Lot on either Netflix or Amazon Prime Video. Netflix offers it for the US, France, Germany, Latin America, South Africa, the Middle East and India. Amazon Prime has it for Australia, Canada, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Is I Care a Lot based on a true story?

J Blakeson wrote (and directed) I Care a Lot after he was inspired by real news stories of professional guardians in America and a "legal loophole" they exploited. "It started when I saw news stories about real-life predatory guardians who game the system and exploit their wards," he said.

Blakeson said he went down a "Google rabbit hole" in researching the film. "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." He added, "This provided a lot of themes that interested me, like ambition, the American Dream, and humans becoming commodities. So the story started there. I sat and wrote it on my own and very quickly it formed into what is now I Care a Lot."

What's the guardianship phenomenon?

If you choose to dig deeper into the dark, immoral side of Marla Grayson, The New Yorker has a 2017 essay on the guardianship phenomenon.

What's with the vaping?

Marla Grayson and her vape pen are never far apart. According to Rosamund Pike, this reflects Grayson's roots in a vaping company, a part of her backstory that didn't make it into the film.

"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," Pike told Collider. "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."

Does Jennifer Peterson get out of the nursing home at the end?

You might have noticed we don't see much more of Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest) around the halfway point, once Marla has her committed to a psychiatric ward. So does she ever make it out? Marla and Roman (Peter Dinklage) discuss Jennifer at the end, when Marla again asks for $10 million to have her released. Instead, Roman pulls a wild card and offers to partner up with Marla to build a global nursing home business. Since Marla accepts, we assume she does see to Jennifer's release as part of the deal.

Why did Marla have to die?

Not only does Marla's death come right when she appears to have everything she wanted, but it yanks a happy ending from her love Fran (Eiza González) too. While this comeuppance might be warranted, it's bittersweet. Rosamund Pike and J Blakeson discussed the ending with USA Today.

"In my head, Marla never believed she was going to die," Pike told USA Today. "I mean, right until the point that she breathes her last, I think she still thinks she's going to win and she's going to get out of it. I really do."

Blakeson said, "People find the ending satisfying, but it leaves a bittersweet taste in their mouth because we end with the most likable character in the movie screaming in despair."

If you still have conflicting feelings about Marla getting shot, Blakeson gave Cinemablend another explanation of why it might make you feel a certain way.

"What I like about the ending ... is that I think it's the kind of thing that people think they want, and they sort of enjoy it, but then hopefully, like five minutes later, it leaves a bittersweet taste in the mouth of, 'Should I want that? Should I enjoy that? What does that mean?' There's conventions of cinema and things about rooting for people and empathy, and it's interesting that it's all laid in there."

Was that always the ending?

If you're in the camp that expected Marla to get off scot-free for her dastardly deeds, Blakeson did entertain an alternative ending (but ultimately decided it didn't work).

"In the edit, you try lots of different things and different ways. You never want to have an avenue that's not explored. And we tried the other avenue, and it just felt too [strange]. That that could be how the world works, you know what I mean?" Blakeson told Cinemablend.

What happens to Fran?

While it's heartbreaking that Fran loses her love, Blakeson said she does inherit Marla's share and role in the nursing home empire. This isn't necessarily a good thing, though, because old folks "are going to continue to be screwed over in a real way," Blakeson told USA Today. "You can chop the head off the hydra, but there's another one that will keep living."

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