While we suspect the success of Bong Joon-ho’s satirical Parasite made this odd story of a family of grifters an easier sell to its Executive Producer Brad Pitt we are glad to report that Miranda July’s Kajillionaire quickly sets its own glorious course tearing apart the nuances of sentiment rather than the notions of class.
Old Dolio Dyne (Evan Rachel Wood) was named after a dying man because her parents hoped he would feel like he should add her to his will. He didn’t. Those last few years of expensive experimental cancer drugs can play havoc with estate planning. So, from birth, she plays a part in every rip off, con, long game and grift that her parents can think up. As she gets older she has to come up with her own scams in order to earn her third of the family income.
Living in an old cube farm that is constantly flooded by the foam from the next door Bubbles Inc Old Dolio and her parents Theresa and Robert (Debra Winger and Richard Jenkins) set off on a number of capers that are too petty to be heists but too heartless to be harmless. Stealing checks from lonely old people hardly puts them on the FBIs Most Wanted list but it’s lowdown enough to keep the audience unsympathetic.
This charmless family are joined by the joyfully warm Melanie (Gina Rodriguez) who, for a minute, is swept up in the idea that they represent an exciting escape from her 9 to 5 selling bifocals to old people. When she learns the reality of their grubby groping after money she wants out. Except that she feels something towards Old Dolio who has never had a moment of human tenderness from her parents in her life. The hunger for love in Old Dolio is something Melanie has to respond to.
Evan Rachel Wood plays Old Dolio on that oddly precious ground between acting awkward and awkward acting. Uncomfortable in her own skin she is uncomfortable to watch. And yet this is why Melanie, radiantly self possessed, is clearly the only thing of real value that Old Dolio needs.
The story is quirky and at points surreal. Its brilliance is its resolve to slap away sentiment. The story of what a family should be, or how parents should act, is defied. Miranda July invites you to sit down and then pulls the chair away. While it is not overly dark it manages to cast enough shade to make a dark heart happy.
Review by ANDREW HEBDEN
Queerguru Contributing Editor ANDREW HEBDEN is a MEDIA & CULTURAL STUDIES graduate spending his career between London, Beijing and NYC as an expert in media and social trends. As part of the expanding minimalist FIRE movement he recently returned to the UK and lives in Soho. He devotes as much time as possible to the movies, theatre and the gym. His favorite thing is to try something (anything) new every day.