Kajillionaire was described as a wildly original comedy. I love humor in all varieties and this one sounded like it had unusual characters with an excellent cast. After watching, I found it exactly as described in so many ways. It was unique, offbeat, with unforgettable characters, a sweet unusual relationship and while the humor is dark and unusual, it is wildly funny and moving.
Kajillionaire written and directed by Miranda July stars Evan Rachel Wood as Old Dolio Dyne, a young woman who’s been raised by her con artist parents, Robert Dyne (Richard Jenkins) and Theresa Dyne (Debra Winger) having been taught to swindle, scam, and steal at every turn. During a desperate and hastily planned heist, they charm a stranger into joining them, Melanie Whitacre (Gina Rodriguez), only to have their entire world turned upside down. Old Dolio especially struggles when she sees her parents lavishing attention on Melanie, attention, and affection that they have withheld from her. At first, she blames Melanie but she soon discovers that the source of her pain is her parents. But will the relationships change or will things continue as always between Old Dolio and her parents?
One of the best features of this film is the characters, unique and offbeat. Old Dolio only knows how to cheat and steal. She does not understand typical human interactions and only learns when she takes a parenting class after being hired by a young woman to take her place. Her odd behaviors and reactions to the people around her, including her parents, are what make this film as funny as it is. It can be bizarre but it is also hilarious and moving to see how Old Dolio changes over the film, learning how to feel and care about others. It is not just her character that makes the movie rich. Her parents are also unusual as they scheme and try to get just enough to survive, to pay for a place to live, and find odd pleasure in little things like buying a hot tub. Melanie is passionate and while she eagerly joins the group for the adventure, also teaches Old Dolio a different way. The film is all about the characters, all of whom are wonderful and offbeat.
The plot is simple, focusing on the characters. Old Dolio and her parents try to have enough money to live their lives, freeze during earthquakes, and are afraid of flying. Robert continually tells his landlord of the office space they rent, that he’ll pay Stovik (Mark Ivanir) soon. They follow one scheme after another just to live day to day, explaining to Old Dolio that they don’t need to be a kajillionaire, don’t need the big win. When they meet Melanie, they are enraptured by her and bring her in on their schemes. But their interactions with her cause changes in the dynamics between them and Old Dolio. And it is those dynamics that drive the film. While the plot is not complex, it is unusual and the comedic beats are all about the relationship between the three and the normal people that they meet. Their behavior is bizarre at times but there is a dark comedy in the relationship between parents and daughter. And Gina Rodriguez as Melanie brings contrast to their darkness with her brightness and hopeful nature, the clash of personalities also bringing humor and whimsy.
It is the dynamics of the characters that resonate in this movie and it couldn’t happen without the fantastic actors. The chemistry between all four is perfect. Evan Rachel Wood is brilliant as Old Dolio, wrapping herself in the character’s unique personality. She is subsumed by her parents but as the cracks develop, it is her performance that reveals the tiny changes in Old Dolio. Gina Rodriguez and Evan Rachel Wood have an unusual dynamic, their characters starting at odds but eventually developing a sweet relationship. Gina Rodriguez is like a breath of fresh air within the confines of the movie, her character hopeful in contrast to the bleakness of Old Dolio’s life. Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger are phenomenal as Robert and Theresa Dyne, callous, cold, and scheming but also weird and set in their dysfunctional ways. They cannot change even if they want to and the pair portrays that perfectly.
While the plot at times meanders, winding through the lives of Old Dolio and her parents, the slow build and unusual characters are off the wall funny with endearing relationships and interesting dynamics between both the main characters and the individuals they encounter day-to-day. If you like unusual humor and unique characters with a hopeful tone despite the dysfunctional relationships, this movie might be for you. It is imaginative and rich in character with brilliant acting. I loved the unconventional characters, the quirky humor, and the exceptional acting.
Rating: 4 out of 5 presents.
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