Miranda July’s Kajillionaire is absurd, absurdly absurd, but the slightly off-kilter universe she concocts for her characters is eminently watchable and surprisingly endearing.
Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood) (yes that’s her name) (yes it’s horrible) was named after a homeless man who’d won the lottery. Her parents hoped this might get her into his will. It was the first scheme the family worked as a threesome, but not the last.
Living “off the grid” seems like it involves a reclusive shack, enough farm land for self-sufficiency, and possibly an underground bunker. Old Dolio and her family – mom Theresa (Debra Winger) and dad Robert (Richard Jenkins) – live in the city, but outside of society. Their home, if it can even be called such, is condemned office space that is flooded with bubbles on a daily basis. They are charged a nominal rent for these quarters but they can never seem to pay it. Many months are overdue. The family subsists on a series of scams, most of which feature Old Dolio on the front lines. Old Dolio, it goes without saying, is a strange young woman having had such an untraditional upbringing, and, it must be said, some pretty faulty parenting. Theresa and Robert aren’t exactly the loving, supporting types. Their family runs more like a business (an unsuccessful business) where expenses and profits are split 3 ways. Having never known anything else, Old Dolio doesn’t notice anything amiss in this arrangement before her parents meet and all but adopt another young woman, Melanie (Gina Rodriguez), who is quickly taken into the fold and absorbed into their schemes.
Miranda July has crafted some characters that are unique and interesting yet completely (hopefully) unrelatable. Still, she uses their unusual circumstances to speak toward larger themes of toxic relationships and learning to identify and fulfill one’s own needs, which are universal tenets of growing up. Old Dolio hasn’t had the opportunities, or even considered them, before now; only in comparing herself to Melanie does she begin to realize the iniquities she’s been suffering. We only know what we know.
With strong, engaging performances across the board, a knowing script, and a unique vision from writer-director Miranda July, Kajillionaire is must-see independent film and genuine oasis in the cinematic desert that is 2020.