Film: Kajillionaire

Miranda July’s quirky indie comedy Kajillionaire (2020) is a low-key but rewarding treat. It’s about a struggling family of low-rent grifters—curmudgeonly mother Theresa (Debra Winger), shifty father Robert (Richard Jenkins), and high-strung, oddball daughter Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood)—who live in an abandoned industrial office they can barely afford. The family receives an ultimatum from their landlord, who demands the fifteen hundred dollars he’s owed. Old Dolio masterminds a luggage insurance scam at the airport, but during their travels the family meets, and unexpectedly befriends, a cheerful young woman named Melanie (Gina Rodriguez). Melanie ingratiates herself with them, even participating in their cons, but her presence disrupts the familial ecosystem for Old Dolio, whose repressed attraction to Melanie shines a new light on the flaws of her parents.

With its small cast, grungy look, and LA street settings, Kajillionaire has all the earmarks of a shoestring indie comedy, and while it’s not laugh-out-loud funny, it’s amiable and absolutely heartwarming. Wood’s esoteric performance as Old Dolio sets the comic tone nicely, with Jenkins and Winger ably supporting, but it’s Rodriguez who steals the film, her arrival both improving and shaking up the cast’s distinct onscreen chemistry. It’s not an earth-shattering affair, but it’s a small, touching film about a woman discovering her emotional needs aren’t being met, and finding a new way forward. A satisfying little gem.

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