"Kajillionaire" is the sort of quirky dramedy you'd expect to find coming out of a film festival...it did in fact have its premiere at this year's Sundance Film Festival back in January. There are some delicious performances, and Evan Rachel Wood is simply a powerhouse, but the film ekes by without ever really making an impact.
The film comes from lauded writer/director Miranda July ("The Future," "Me and You and Everyone We Know") and centers on a family who make their livings as con-artists out on the street. Robert and Theresa (the always brilliant Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger) have decided that they can just skim by in life with just the bare essentials...even if they're right, that's no way to raise a daughter. Said daughter goes by Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood), who wears baggy clothes, walks with her arms extended out at her sides, and who is the textbook definition of an introvert. She doesn't make a lot of eye contact, talks in mumbles, and generally avoids all human contact...she knows no other way.
Having her eyes opened to the larger world around her is one of the major themes of the film, and things start to change when they run in to Melanie (Gina Rodriguez), a young girl who is all too eager to join the family's schemes. But once the dynamics of the group changes, so does Old Dolio's perspective on her parents. She sees them confiding in Melanie and acting in ways that they never acted with her. She's jealous and above all else, hurt.
July's commentary on family dynamics and the communication (or lack thereof) within a family unit is definitely compelling, and the film is dripping with indie-sensibilities. But the results vary when it comes to the emotional pay off for the audience who just experienced time with these strange, strange people and the bizarre circumstances they found themselves in.
When "Kajillionaire" works, it pulls you in, but too much of it doesn't, resulting in a lack of real emotional investment for the audience. The characters are so interesting, and the performances so weirdly brazen that you might just get hooked in. But for me, the unevenness ultimately had me cashing out.
Genre: Crime, Drama.
Run Time: 1 hour 46 minutes.
Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Richard Jenkins, Debra Winger, Gina Rodriguez, Mark Ivanir.
Written and Directed by Miranda July ("The Future," "Me and You and Everyone We Know").
"Kajillionaire" is available on streaming as of Friday, September 25th, 2020.
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