You can’t choose your family. Or, more important to filmmaker Miranda July, you can’t opt out of family. And to prove her point, July brings us Kajillionaire, a quirky little coming-of-age story about the cult of family and learning how to make choices for ourselves.

With Kajillionaire, July, who made her feature film debut at 2005’s Sundance Film Festival with Me and You and Everything We Know, continues her fascination with themes involving the juxtaposition of how we see ourselves and what we expect from those who only view us from the outside. And as in that earlier film, July’s ace in the hole with Kajillionaire is her own brilliant creativity and expertly handled touches of peculiarity. Some may knock it as a pretentious exercise in form over function, and yes, sometimes the message gets a bit lost in the weirdness of it all, but I enjoyed every single second of it.

"We get the feeling that July has something up her sleeve to bring it all to a heartwarming and emotionally satisfying resolution. But I must admit, I didn’t see that coming"

It is the story of Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood), a 20-something grifter who grew up in a family of life-long grifters, father Robert (Richard Jenkins) and mother Theresa (Debra Winger). The family has never had two dimes to rub together nor have they tried to better themselves in a respectable manner. They are close, tight knit, and good at what they do. However, having been born into the grift directly from the womb, Old Dolio (named from the victim of a failed lottery scam), has absorbed their bad habits, and warped world view. She’s never had friends of her own or even been away from her parents for any amount of time.

Home is sleeping bags on the floor of an office complex next door to an industrial bubble factory (yes, you read that right), where they mooch on rent by providing daily clean-ups of the pink soapy bubbles that seep through the walls into their living space. That’s about as close as it gets to an honest living as they much prefer to thieve, steal and swindle their way through life, whether pilfering packages from the post office, or running elaborate scams to collect insurance payments.Kajillionaire

It’s on one of these long cons that the family runs across what becomes an ambassador to the outside world in the form of Melanie (Gina Rodriguez), a young LatinX character who is not only eager to join their little reindeer games, but is also quite excited to finally live out her dreams of pretending she’s a star in the next Ocean’s sequel.

The breath of fresh air that Melanie brings to the situation is both revealing and quite relaxing as we’re finally allowed to feel okay with actually liking these people who feed at the bottom of society. She’s also the emotional spark that offsets Old Dolio’s long-held views of the outside world as a place of misery and deception. Rodriguez is more than up to the task as her bright smile and eager outlook help Old Dolio take those first steps away from her family. With a Melanie in our lives, we could all be kajillionaires.

With the plot skittering in all directions and our emotions on edge at the revelation of such a toxic family environment, we finally begin to figure out where July is going with her story. Aided by Melanie’s entrance into the fray, everything begins to tighten up as we head into the film’s third act. We get the feeling that July has something up her sleeve to bring it all to a heartwarming and emotionally satisfying resolution. But I must admit, I didn’t see that coming.

As expected, Winger, Jenkins, and Rodriguez are excellent in their roles here, and Wood may have just turned in her career best, but July is the big star of the show with a film that runs us through the wringer of emotions before tossing us out in an emotional heap of satisfaction and gratitude. Not many in Hollywood these days can do that. Well-recognized but overtly under-appreciated, July possesses that elusive ability to be wry, resonant, profound, and uniquely creative… all at the same time. And Kajillionaire is all the proof you need.

5/5 stars




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MPAA Rating: R for some sexual references/language.
104 mins
: Miranda July
Miranda July
Evan Rachel Wood, Mark Ivanir, Gina Rodriguez
: Comedy | Drama
Know your worth.
Memorable Movie Quote: When a man gives you wood, anything made of wood, he's saying, "You give me wood."
Theatrical Distributor:
Focus Features
Official Site: https://www.focusfeatures.com/kajillionaire
Release Date:
September 25, 2020
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:

Synopsis: From acclaimed writer/director Miranda July (The Future, Me and You and Everyone We Know) comes a profoundly moving and wildly original comedy. Con-artists Theresa (Debra Winger) and Robert (Richard Jenkins) have spent 26 years training their only daughter, Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood), to swindle, scam, and steal at every opportunity. During a desperate, hastily conceived heist, they charm a stranger (Gina Rodriguez) into joining their family, only to have their entire world turned upside down.