There’s a saying that money can’t solve your problems, but it sure does help. The new film Kajillionaire from director Miranda July, follows a family of small-time grifters looking to make a few bucks. Never enough to draw attention to themselves, just enough to survive by any means necessary. Leading the family in two very performances are Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water, Step Brothers) as father and conspiracy theorist husband Robert and Debra Winger (Terms of Endearment, An Officer and a Gentleman, The Ranch) as wife and mother Theresa. While they are parents, they have shown no real nurturing or love towards their daughter Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood, Across The Universe, Westworld), naming her after a lottery winner they hoped to inherit from. As they complete a series of grifts in order to keep their office-turned-dwelling, they meet Melanie (Gina Rodriguez, Jane The Virgin, Annihilation), who makes Old Dolio question the nature of her relationship with her parents and what she wants for her future. Unnervingly original and intimate, Kajillioniare radiates with subversive feminine sexuality and heartbreaking relatability.
July, who is known for her female-driven “quirky” and quiet comedies/character studies, exploring intimacy in a “slice of life” film. Kajillionaire still explores these themes, but does so in It’s as if she took all the lessons she’s learned from Me and You and Everyone You Know and The Future and cultivated them into this explosive and endearing piece. Still injecting the right amount of cringe into her story and characters, July clearly has almost mastered her distinct style.
Under frizzy hair and lower vocal register, Evan Rachel Wood gives an emotional yet subdued performance as Old Dolio. While this role seems to fit into Wood’s filmography quite nicely, she’s able to give an elevated and complex performance, filled with nuance and vulnerability. Wood could have easily pushed Old Dolio into an unrealistic place, but because the character is based on human emotions and not quirks, Old Dolio remains relatable. This could be the role that proves Wood to be one of the quintessential character actresses of our time.
Operating on a whole other level, Rodriguez brings a sexy mothering quality to the romantic lead, her character feeding off of Old Dolio’s need for stability and comfort with palpable sexual tension. Instead of coming off weird or kinky, Rodriguez’s warmth radiates off the screen. Giving a grounded performance, Rodriguez perfectly bounces off of Jenkins, Winger, and Woods otherwise niche character, creating a beautiful character balance.
While the set up feels long and arduous and unbalanced until the introduction of Rodriguez’s Melanie, the emotional volcano that erupts in the film’s final act, makes the wait feel worth it. Overall, Kajillionaire is a surreal portrait of codependent and toxic parental relationships and how that bleeds over into other areas of one’s life.
You can see where Kajillionaire is playing here. Watch the trailer below.