Kajillionaire Is Miranda July's Quirky Con Artist Comedy
9/4/2020 • 4 min read
The movies of Miranda July are quirky and contained, with a focus on unusual families. Her new movie, KAJILLIONAIRE, fits into the pattern established by her first two films, ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW and THE FUTURE, but it is a lot more accessible. KAJILLIONAIRE is the story of a unique family — parents Robert and Theresa Dyne (Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger) and their eccentric daughter, Old Dolio, played by an amazing Evan Rachel Wood — with a habit of running scams and schemes. When they meet the more genially oddball Melanie (Gina Rodriguez) in the middle of their most ambitious grift yet, everything changes.
KAJILLIONAIRE exists in the same spiritual world as 2019's iconic PARASITE, and also feels like it could sit easily alongside movies like 2000's nearly perfect teen angst indie GHOST WORLD and Ridley Scott's entertaining Nic Cage con artist comedy MATCHSTICK MEN. It's a movie about learning who you really want to be, and figuring out how to become that person. Here's why you should be on the lookout for KAJILLIONARE.
A Con of Discovery
As you might be able to tell from the trailer above, the Dyne family spends every day trying to survive in Los Angeles. They don't make things easy on themselves, however. They rent space for their "home" from a bubble factory, which is run poorly enough that pink foam is always dripping down the walls of the cubicle space in which they leave. (Don't ask.)
As rough around the edges as her parents may be, they control virtually every aspect of Old Dolio's life. Evan Rachel Wood sinks deep into her idiosyncratic character, which makes her a surprisingly perfect guide through the film's awkward world. She bounces off the forcefully broken performance from the great Richard Jenkins and the quietly perceptive Debra Winger. Together, their work makes us believe these people really do roam the side streets of L.A.
All the while, Old Dolio is about to realize who she really is. All the years of being "guided" by her grifter parents are about to come to a head when their ill-considered new con-job introduces a new force into their lives.
Old Dolio doesn't know it, but she's desperate to connect with someone and be understood. She's never had the chance, thanks to her family's focus on fakery. But when she gets her hands on three round-trip tickets to fly to New York, fate intervenes on the young woman's behalf by introducing Melanie. The talkative newcomer is quickly folded into the family's operations, and that's the key to unlocking everything Old Dolio has repressed.
Whether she's on TV in "Jane the Virgin" or acting in movies like this one, ANNIHILATION, or MISS BALA, Gina Rodriguez is a powerful force. She's right at home in this little ensemble, and the energy she brings to KAJILLIONARE helps us understand the family at the story's center — and ultimately brings us deep into their conflict.
Focus on the Family
KAJILLIONAIRE is a movie full of strange sights and events: The cascading pink bubbles in the Dyne home, the accumulation of scams, and the omnipresent threat of earthquakes which can literally shake up these static people — not to mention the performances themselves. But underlying everything is a legitimate family that feels far more intimate and familiar than all their odd behavior would suggest.
Miranda July's movie is as funny as it is off-kilter, and even more touching. It gives these four great actors an opportunity to play characters who are way outside their normal fare. In turn, that makes KAJILLIONAIRE a surprising delight, and one of the more memorable comedies we've seen in a long time.
KAJILLIONAIRE opens on September 18!
All images courtesy of Focus Features.