Kajillionaire (2020)
Kajillionaire (2020)

Genre: Crime Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 46 min.

Release Date: September 25th, 2020 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Miranda July Actors: Evan Rachel Wood, Debra Winger, Richard Jenkins, Gina Rodriguez, Mark Ivanir, Diana Maria Riva, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Rachel Redleaf

 


 

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utside a Los Angeles post office, parents Robert (Richard Jenkins) and Theresa Dyne (Debra Winger) play the roles of lookouts, precisely instructing at what point their daughter, Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood), should make her move, jumping and rolling over walkway walls and then dashing into the building, as if initiating some major heist with perfect synchronization. Instead, they’re three minor con-artists, finding opportunities to merely rob an adjoining P.O. box to steal various items to return them to stores. They’re also not opposed to asking for rewards when they bring “found” belongings back to their owners, entering every contest or raffle imaginable, and trading gift certificates or anything of perceived value for anything else they might be able to turn into quick cash.

These odd protagonists are instantly sympathetic – to a moderate degree – due to their disheveled states, their pathetic scams, and their general desperation. Even though they’re constantly working to steal from or rip off any entity within reach, they’re still essentially homeless, barely making ends meet from week to week. Their pitiable existences and unscrupulous undertakings possess a curious contrast; they’re criminals, but they’re lamentably miserable. When Dolio comes up with a scheme to use a free flight to New York to file an insurance claim on “lost” luggage, her plans backfire in a strangely unpredictable way, as Robert and Theresa make friends with a passenger, Melanie (Gina Rodriguez), who saps some of the attention away – not just as a new asset for future grifting, but also as if a replacement daughter.

Melanie soon references the “Ocean’s” movies (and then “Mission: Impossible”), which are on the opposite end of the spectrum compared to the swindles going on here. It’s part of a series of lightly comical exchanges during lightly comical misadventures involving a collection of highly eccentric personas – complemented by supporting and background parts that are just as unusual. But more piercing than the amusement found in the weirdness of the various acts of thievery is the thought-provoking probe of uncommon human interactions as details emerge about the primary trio. Through examinations of purpose, mortality, life’s repetitions, and unintentional mimicry of familial traditions, Dolio discovers a longing for normalcy to combat her crippling emotional detachment; she’s never experienced the routines and the love of a typical family. Her whole existence has been merely to serve as an accomplice to career criminals.

“I’m not gonna be sad.” Something profound is lurking just beneath the uncomfortably antisocial behaviors, the continual trickery, and what largely amounts to child abuse (and a Stockholm syndrome-like dependence). The film takes a few dark turns – though they’re tinged with comparably dark humor – as it scrutinizes issues of severe psychological damage and a twisted sense of parenting and filial responsibilities. It’s alternately disheartening, embarrassing, moving, and surprising; it establishes a mood and plays with emotions more than it sticks to a pragmatic narrative (aided by a fittingly melancholy score by Emile Mosseri). And it’s also mysterious, considering that Melanie’s involvement and attitude are fantasy-like, rarely adhering to believable reactions. Ultimately, the characters here are all absorbing, even with their questionable conduct and especially because of their sociological conundrums – but the premise (and the resolution) is terribly unconvincing.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10