Miranda July’s first film in nine years doesn’t deliver on its excellent premise.
For the first time in nine years, author, artist and actor Miranda July (Me and You and Everyone We Know, The Future) returns the director’s chair for an offbeat tale about overcoming stunting family ties in order to forge a connection.
Written and directed by July, Kajillionaire stars Evan Rachel Wood as Old Dolio, the 26-year0old daughter of a couple of grifters (the perfectly cast Debra Winger and Richard Jenkins). All three live together in a dilapidated office in LA, where they struggle to keep up with rent and are comically forced to clean up daily leakages of pink bubbles that copiously seep from the wall. When their main source of income (the hilariously-shot theft of mail from the local post office) dries up, Old Dolio comes up with an idea for a low-stakes scam, one that involves conning the airport’s baggage insurance department. Think Oceans Three meets Mission Possible. The scheme inadvertently ends up introducing them to Melanie (Gina Rodriguez), who is drawn to the family’s preposterous cons, much to the dismay of the distrustful Old Dolio.
It might be the case that the long wait for July’s newest film has become something of a burden when it comes to expectations, but it’s still hard to shake the feeling that Kajillionaire doesn’t completely deliver on its excellent premise. The film works deadpan wonders when it centres on the warped parent-daughter relationship at the heart of the story and the emotional dread of intimacy that’s in-baked within their family unit.
July also offers up an intriguing examination of our seemingly bottomless capacity to self-sabotage and people’s entrenched reflex to hide behind what we consider to be our immutable natures. Frustratingly, the offbeat heist movie shows cracks in its third act, when the introduction of a queer dimension to the narrative feels somewhat aimless. It doesn’t completely derail a charmingly idiosyncratic affair, one that benefits in no small way from Wood’s excellent physicality and vocal performance. It’s just a shame that the end result might ultimately be a bit too slight for its own good.
Kajillionaire / Directed by Miranda July (US 2020), with Evan Rachel Wood, Debra Winger, Gina Rodriguez, Rochard Jenkins. Starts October 22.