Kajillionaire is sweet tale of personal emancipation. A young lady trapped in an emotional cage, yearning for love and a freedom she can’t comprehend until a stranger shows her a way out.
Kajillionaire is the latest family crime drama from the mind of Miranda July. But don’t be misled by the ‘family crime drama’ moniker. This is not the Sopranos or The Godfather but something vastly different and on a much smaller scale. Kajillionaire is about a family of grifters made up of the father Robert played by Richard Jenkins, the mother Theresa played by Debra Winger and their daughter who goes by the nick name ‘Old Dolio’, played by Evan Rachel Wood.
The family carry out well-rehearsed cons to get their scores, hoping each time that the next job will be ‘The Big One’. Before we get an opportunity to form an opinion of this family, its quickly revealed that rather than being greedy money obsessed criminals, they are more akin to the homeless and live every day without any hope of life ever being better.
It’s apparent the parents have been living this life for a long time, so long in fact they raised their daughter with no other goal than to live the same way. They grift and work out cons to pay for meals and buy clothes. They attempt to return stolen vouchers to get cashback and their grand scheme is to get enough money to pay their long overdue rent by ‘Friday’. There are no grand ambitions or dreams of living well. This is a life they don’t like but accept and do little to change or deviate from until a chance encounter with the young attractive Melanie, played by Gina Rodriguez
Melanie’s arrival in their life is a catalyst for change but is less like a hurricane and more like a gentle breeze moving them along. She herself is a lost soul looking to belong. She brings a certain energy to the proceedings and her perky colourful confidence is a sharp contrast to the drab, dreary defeated appearance of the family. She is excited to become part of the family’s latest heists, but her attention very quickly turns to Old Dolio, who she manages to establish a deep connection with, despite Dolio being deprived of any sort of love, human contact, or affection from birth.
The film has a surreal feel, like a weird fantasy where it might not be real, or things might not be as they seem. The bright skies and sunshine of the city are designed to provide enough of a contrast with the family, a perfect illustration of just how disconnected they are from the society they live in. At times I was unsure whether this was supposed to be a dark comedy as some of the situations they found themselves in were quite comical. It makes it that bit sadder when you realise this is actually their reality.
In truth, there isn’t much crime in this drama. This is Old Dolio’s story, she must accept what she has always known or step out and see if she can fit into a new reality and understanding of the world.
The film didn’t wow me, but the performances were solid across the board with some truly touching moments. Rachel Evan Woods introverted, and love starved ‘Old Dolio’ is fascinating to watch and engaging enough to make you stick around to the end to see how she ends up. Overall, it was a simple, well told story with few shocks or surprises. It’s nowhere near as weird as it first appears but still provides an enjoyable tale of personal emancipation
See the full trailer here
Kajillionaire was highlighted as part of the 2020 BFI London Film festival in October. It’s now available to buy or rent here