Now I think it’s important to start by stating that I have not seen any previous films from Miranda July. I’m familiar with them by reputation, but I haven’t seen them myself. I was still intrigue to see this though, given the positive reviews of the film and the cast lined up for it, and I ended up finding this a really strong film.
The film follows the Dyne family, parents Robert and Theresa, and daughter Old Dolio (named such for an inheritance scam), a family of scam artists getting by in their day to day lives. After they get told they have a few weeks to get $1500 or be evicted, the family gets involved in a number of scams, one of which involves lost luggage insurance. Whilst doing this scam, the family runs into Melanie, who soon becomes part of them, however, the involvement of Melanie starts to bring issues that Old Dolio has with her parents to the forefront. This is a film where I found it to be pretty good overall, but there’s one moment where everything clicks into place and I suddenly completely understand everything that was being looked at and fully appreciate it. Once that moment happened, all of the weight and depth that Miranda July intended for the film comes into clear view. What July is doing here is deconstructing the institution of the family and what exactly it means to be family. Robert and Theresa are Old Dolio’s parents, but they are not her family, they do not see her as a daughter but as an accomplice and it’s only through the interactions with Melanie that Old Dolio starts to understand what a family is. The only times when the Dyne’s act as a family is in a literal sense when they ‘act’ as a family as part of a con. I don’t want to go more into detail as that would spoil the power of the film, but I ended up finding this a pretty powerful film. However, July does not have this be a heavy film. There are some lighthearted moments in the film and there is this quirkiness that is present throughout the film. From what I know of July’s other films, this type of tone is pretty consistent with her other films and gives the film a unique feel to it that makes it an entertaining watch.
The performances meanwhile are uniformly strong. Evan Rachel Wood is excellent as Old Dolio, showing the feelings of love that she thinks she has for her parents and her growing understanding that her parents are acting in an abusive manner towards her, with this resulting in her being unable to properly express any form of emotion until her interactions with Melanie, showing the damage that can be done through such a parental relationship. Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger meanwhile effectively show their emotional manipulation of Old Dolio in their performances, although talking in depth about their performances would spoil some of the more dramatic moments in the film. Gina Rodriguez as Melanie meanwhile is effective at showing how someone is able to be seduced into the con artist ways of the Dyne’s and her actions provide an effective contrast to the amorality of the Dyne’s, with Rodriguez also having great chemistry with Wood, which enhances the growing connection between their characters in the second half of the film.
Overall, I found Kajillionaire to be a very surprising film. I expected it to be a quirky, interesting little film, but what I ended up seeing was a film using the trappings of quirk to tell a powerful story about the nature of family. It is difficult for me to explain exactly why it had such a strong impact on me without spoiling the film, as it is one where I would recommend going in pretty blind, like I did, and overall this is a film I would recommend seeing if you get the chance.
My Rating: 4.5/5