Kajillionaire

Miranda July’s movies are uber-quirky, and depending on your tastes, will have you smiling in delighted pleasure, or else scratching your head. Or perhaps a little of both, which I’ll bet is her aim.

Genre(s): Comedy

Director: Miranda July

Actors: Evan Rachel Wood, Debra Winger, Gina Rodriguez, Richard Jenkins

Year: 2020

MPAA Rating: R

Country: USA

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Delighting in oddballs on the edges of “normal” society, Miranda July returns with Kajillionaire an odd but sweet tale of a trio of scrappy con artists. These folks are always barely getting by, stealing valuable mail then returning it to the rightful owners, hoping for rewards, or entering online contests, hoping to get prizes that they can then turn around and sell. The thing is, this trio is also a family. Twenty-something Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood) has known no other life than that of the weird world of her parents Robert and Theresa (Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger). Raising by her parents “without the insult of being treated by a child,” awkward and mumbly Old Dolio is an emotionally stunted but highly capable survivalist who nonetheless is completely thrown for a loop when a new person comes into their lives…

On a scheme involving a round trip flight to New York and some lost luggage, Robert is charmed by his attractive young seat-mate Melanie (wonderfully funny Gina Rodriguez) whom he invites into their baggage-claim scam as an accomplice. What none of them predict is that Melanie, who on the surface is one of the “false, fakey people” that the trio likes to mock, turns out to be eager for more cons to shake up her own life. Melanie also intuitively senses something within Old Dolio, and gently shows the awkward young woman glimpses of the world of kindness and affection her parents have always dismissed.

Whether the character arc of Old Dolio entirely works in the short time span presented in the film (she has been functioning in this world her whole life… surely she must have come across kind people?), this goofy, gentle story still shines from its non-judgmental portrayal of the young woman at the center. Sassy, energetic Melanie could have easily been cruel or dismissive to Old Dolio, but Melanie’s sparkling presence (which includes some unguardedly hilarious reaction shots) is refreshingly open in dealing with the repressed young woman. Try not to feel your heart ache a little over something as simple as a pancake made with love. Old Dolio and Melanie are an unlikely duo, but they also make for one of the sweetest screen pairs I’ve seen in a long time.

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