“Kajillionaire,” a curious and charming new film by writer-director Miranda July, plays upon the mind on a level that can’t quite be analyzed.
The 400-Word Review: Kajillionaire
By Sean Collier
September 26, 2020
That might be overstating it; anything, of course, can be analyzed. And over-analyzed, a treatment I’d imagine “Kajillionaire” is likely to get by those who would prefer to see it as an anti-capitalist parable, a criticism of the primacy of the birth family or an acidic, wry comedy. It can be any of those things, if you’d like it to be. But looking at this film through specific lenses spoils a bit of the magic, I think; it’s far better to just let this odd world rattle around in your mind for a while.
Robert (Richard Jenkins) and Theresa (Debra Winger) are semi-anarchic grifters, working out daily ways of wringing a spare bit of cash from the system. They’d like to present their lifestyle as an assault on conventionality and toxic culture; they may well believe such philosophical notions, but they also would very much prefer to avoid any personal or societal obligations.
Their only affiliate is their somewhat malformed daughter, Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood), who was named after a vagrant-turned-millionaire they knew in an attempt to get her written into the will. Old Dolio has taken all of her parents’ wisdom at face value, but is beginning to suspect that her many, many idiosyncrasies — a quaking aversion to physical contact, a paralyzing fear of earthquakes and more — may be the fault of her atypical and somewhat detached rearing.
She’d also really like to see some of the world beyond the damp, bubble-soaked office space where the family lives. (The bubbles leak in from a neighboring factory. They have to clear them on a strict schedule.)
The family picks up the interest of an interloper, Melanie (Gina Rodriguez), in the course of a convoluted lost-baggage grift. Outgoing, confident and utterly undeterred by the family’s lifestyle, Melanie emerges as a willing ally for the parents — and a potential rival for Old Dolio, who is deeply confused by this new arrival.
Wood’s performance is remarkable, as she crafts a character who could easily descend into dull parody and imbues her with a luminous, captivating quality I can’t define. Partnered with an equally game Rodriguez, Wood makes “Kajillionaire” much of what it is.
I still don’t quite know what it is. But I like it.
My Rating: 9/10
“Kajillionaire” will be released in select theaters on Sept. 25 and become available via on-demand services on Oct. 16.