London Film Festival 2020: Kajillionaire review – a touching tale about misfits finding their way

Kajillionaire review

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Starring Evan Rachel Wood, Debra Winger, Gina Rodriguez, Richard Jenkins. Directed by Miranda July.

Indie cinema can be a haven for offbeat type films that catch you off guard. Miranda July might be one of those indie filmmakers who makes films that defy genre explanation.

Kajillionaire follows Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood) and her parents Robert (Richard Jenkins) and Theresa (Debra Winger), as they commit small-time cons to make ends meet. When her parents invite Melanie (Gina Rodriguez) to join their con, things take a turn.

Throughout the film, there is an offbeat style that some might bridle at; it’s filled with weird characters and quirks that might not appeal to everyone’s taste, and for the first half it doesn’t find much ground to build a steady stream. However, once the film begins focussing on Old Dolio (her name explanation is chucklesome) and Melanie, the film starts to finds its strength.

Wood has never been better; her husky voice and straight hair perfectly show a life lived but not experienced. She is neither childlike nor jaded, just a person who has not had the chance to become a fully formed individual. Similarly, Rodriguez has never been better, and with the much more vivacious Melanie, she finds ample ground to build a compelling character from.

Evan Rachel Wood, Debra Winger and Richard Jenkins in Kajillionaire

Evan Rachel Wood, Debra Winger and Richard Jenkins in Kajillionaire.

Arguably, Jenkins and Winger get the more fun roles, as the old con people who are simply stuck in their ways. Winger’s Theresa cannot bring herself to be affectionate to her own daughter, while Jenkins’ Robert is terrified of a soon to be coming earthquake. Together they make for a funny pairing that also roots the film, creating a slightly real yet slightly heightened world.

July’s script and direction are also hard to fault. Even if the narrative doesn’t find its footing straight away, it’s still filled with brilliant character beats that manage to keep you invested — the comments of parenting and how to raise a child are both true but also profound in their simplicity.

The con aspect is never as exciting as the character interactions which is why it’s often pushed to the side, the idea of conning dying people by playing to their loneliness would actually make for an interesting narrative, but the characters are more interesting than that plot would be.

For those with an aversion to a particular type of indie spirited movie, this might prove a little too try-hard, but for people looking for an often funny, and by the end, quite touching film about misfits trying to connect, this might just be the feel-good film of the year.

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