The first thing that comes to mind after seeing Miranda July’s Kajillionaire is that it is most definitely not what you expected. It is kooky, quirky, surprising, and so very indy, and sometimes that is all you need. If you’re looking for a cookie cutter 5-act-structure Hollywood blockbuster, this ain’t it. It’s better.
But the synopsis, should you chose to look into the film before catching it in cinemas (or eventually on digital), surely reads like it could be one: “Con-artists Theres (Debra Winger) and Robert (Richard Jenkins) have spent 26 years training their only daughter, Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood), to swindle, scam and steal at every opportunity. During a desperate, hastily conceived heist, they charm a stranger (Gina Rodriguez) into joining their next scam, only to have their entire world turned upside down.”
Don’t let the word “heist” fool you, Kajillionaire is neither a tense action thriller nor is it packed with big guns — instead it’s filled with small earthquakes and enough charm to get you through these dark times (at least for 104 minutes). Evan Rachel Wood is superb as crafty Old Dolio (named after, spoiler alert, a millionaire who did not end up naming her in his will), while Debra Winger and Richard Jenkins are as entertaining as they are infuriating her as parents. Gina Rodriguez rounds up the small but stellar cast nicely, playing off her on-screen partners with a chemistry seldom witnessed. One of the film’s most enticing scenes is set in complete darkness and relies entirely on the vocal delivery of its leads — and it is magnificent.
July’s third feature, despite portraying the extraordinary lives of extraordinary people, touches upon very ordinary, everyday themes including family, identity, and love. In the most desperate of times, will you fall back into old patterns, or can you ultimately move past your family’s upbringing? Beyond all that, Kajillionaire is simply weird and extremely peculiar, and in that lies its power.
Kajillionaire is now in UK cinemas.
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