Not unlike fellow grifters Anna Delvey and Elizabeth Holmes, I Care a Lot’s Marla Grayson has an inimitable aesthetic. 

By Isabel Jones
Feb 23, 2021 @ 10:00 am
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Credit: Netflix

We bow at the altar of Rosamund Pike, reigning queen of all stylish, manipulative, and self-serving villains. It is a wonder that Pike is not cast as the resident rule-breaker in every single film, television series, play, or podcast — she is really, truly that good.

Whereas Pike played the long game as Amy Dunne in Gone Girl, she goes full-out bad-to-the-bone life-ruiner as Marla Grayson in Netflix's I Care a Lot. It's hard to compare the performances, both equally chilling and masterful, but something about the cutthroat Grayson might resonate even more in our current moment than husband-wrangling "cool girl" Dunne (though it bears note that no one has ever worked that hard for Ben Affleck, except maybe the Gigli casting team). 

Credit: Seacia Pavao / Netflix

Grayson plays into every millennial's obsession with the modern scammer. Like faux heiress Anna "Delvey" Sorokin and defrauding Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, Grayson has mastered the art of exploitation. But it isn't just the magnitude of their crimes and the staggering confidence behind them that has us mainlining The Inventor: Out For Blood in Silicon Valley or poring over every image of Delvey in a courtroom. A messy blonde updo paired with a black turtleneck is now up there with Freddy Krueger's striped sweater and Jennifer Lopez's Versace Grammys dress in terms of sartorial iconography. Similarly, Delvey's thick-framed glasses and matching black choker made for a memorable Halloween costume. Love them or hate them, the grifters have flair. 

The air of glamor extends even to the film adaptations of Delvey and Holmes's stories, which boast the star power of Kate Spade muse Julia Garner and Dior face Jennifer Lawrence, respectively. 

In I Care a Lot, Pike's Grayson steals from the elderly clients she's been appointed to care for. She's not ripping off the ultra-wealthy like Delvey and her intentions are not well-meaning as it seems Holmes's initially were. But like both women, Grayson has a uniform — a good one. Sporting a sleek blonde bob (parted down the center like the kids intended) and a wardrobe filled with deceptively welcoming brights and movie-star-in-Cannes sunglasses, Grayson puffs on the perfect accessory for any modern villainess: a vape pen. She is a callous, unrepentant opportunist who dresses like a morning talk show host with a secret.

Credit: SEACIA PAVAO/NETFLIX © 2021

As the film amps up, so does Grayson's capacity for, well, evil. What begins as a duplicitous ongoing con evolves into something more sinister when the "caregiver" discovers that her new charge, Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest), isn't the simple, unattached woman she initially pegged her for. Enter: a "dangerous man" (Peter Dinklage) willing to do whatever it takes to free Jennifer from the retirement home that Grayson sent her to against her will. But Grayson never backs down, nor does her collection of tailored blazers, which works its unique magic until the final credits. 

Credit: Netflix

We're told not to judge a book by its cover, but the cover is an essential element of the book's existence — it shows you what the novel (or the team behind it) wants to communicate to a would-be reader. So, too, does the villain's aesthetic. Grayson wants you to know that she's in control, that she doesn't shy away from risks (like, broadly, the color yellow). The "lioness" Grayson claims to be in the opening of the film is on display in every outfit. 

The bad guy can be hot. The bad guy can be stylish. The bad guy can (and should) always be played by Rosamund Pike.