A downside to the many downsides that have affected cinema this year is that film haven’t had the same vocal marketing that we expect from them. I never knew about Kajillionaire until near the end of September and I go to my cinema every week (varied now because of the pandemic). So this venture to the cinema was in one part to review this film and second part being, if it was good, should word of mouth be more frequent. After seeing Kajillionaire, I will most definitely be recommending it to everyone I meet as this film is hilariously fantastic.
This film was directed by Miranda July who has previously starred in many of the films she has made was well as written them. She’ll get no performer credit in Kajillionaire, but she excels herself in the other two departments, I didn’t really know what to expect from this film, but “quality” is a word that springs to mind. The story is fantastically written with ample amounts of awkward comedy and touching moments. The world of the film is an oxymoron as there is a blend of grounded bizarreness that runs through the narrative making the film feel very abstract compared to other grounded worlds we’ve seen in film so when watching Kajillionaire, it feels unique.
This quality of writing is made all the clearer by doing what all great scripts do, bring back established events and use them in a way in which characters grow. Throughout the film, the characters experience several mini tremors that bring up this paranoia in the characters that at first feel like a sudden halt to events, however Miranda July uses these tremors to plant suspicion in Old Dolio and when a big one happens in which she believes she has died but hasn’t, it’s like a rebirth where she rejects the life she has. Moments like these are a clear indication of the writer’s passion for this story and that passion reaches the audience who respond to it with smiles.
As well as great writing, Kajillionaire is also filled with great performances. Evan Rachel Wood plays Old Dolio, the daughter to mother and father Theresa (Debra Winger) and Robert (Richard Jenkins). This family are meticulous criminals who are either scouring for anything worth stealing to sell or scamming places out of money. You believe at the start that you’re following a strange family with a weird dynamic, however as the film progresses, that dynamic starts to show it’s true self as a toxic, neglectful relationship with Old Dolio craving the need to be loved, especially when Melanie (Gina Rodriguez), a complete stranger enters their life and she start to get the attention from Theresa and Robert that Old Dolio should be getting.
When this shift occurs, Kajillionaire becomes an exploration into people growing and how we need to be loved. Evan Rachel Wood absolutely sells the sadness of her character, you can see it straight away from the opening scene. Her family has sucked her into this pessimistic ideal of societal fakery that when she meets Melanie, and sees her bathing in optimism, it turns the idea upside down. Speaking of which Gina Rodriguez is equally fantastic at injecting some morality into the immoral heists she commits with the family.
It was a bit of a knock back to see that Kajillionaire also dabbles in the more experimental side of filmmaking. There are plenty of sequences that go again the established world created but they are tied into either something a character does or says. Nevertheless, it is a little jarring from what is presented to us but I did find myself slowly accepting it’s place in the film. But I understand that some may find this too strange and reject it but it is down to personal taste and how open minded you are coming into Kajillionaire.
However, if you are someone who has a strong morality and is disgusted by distasteful acts, Kajillionaire may not be the film for you as it is no surprise that when certain scams the family run are applied with context, it may sicken you. One such scam is stealing antiques from elderly people and in one such instance, they raid a sick, elderly man who as Old Dolio discovers “is waiting to die”. But there is some respect as the old mans last wish is to hear is house become alive again, so the family act as thought they are living there for him to hear. In terms of a morality balance, Kajillionaire is right on the edge of tipping either way.
I suppose in a way, this film being on the edge of sickening and heart-warming is what makes it so special, It can identify the light in the dark. What Miranda July has created is a film that explores affection and how a person changes after years of not receiving affection. The characters certainly help this exploration and the transformation that Old Dolio goes through is a reason to stick around with this film. Going back to the beginning, Kajillionaire shouldn’t be shared through word of mouth, it needs to be more of a shot, especially in hard times for cinema.
Final Result: 8/10 – Very Good
Have you seen Kajilionaire? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
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