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    « September. It's a wrap|Main|New Oscar Predictions: Screenplays and International Submissions »
    Wednesday
    Sep 30 2020

    Kajillionaire: The Latest from Miranda July

    ByAbe Friedtanzer

    I still remember when I convinced a few high school friends that the next movie for us to watch together should beMe and You and Everyone We Know. I was fully enthralled by the feature directorial debut of writer-director Miranda July, which explored unconventional romances and perspectives, and, to me, was the definition of experimental and arthouse filmmaking at the time. My friends were not quite as amused, and are still probably angry at me for making them watch it if they haven’t fully blocked it from their memories fifteen years later.

    July’s follow-up,The Future, was intriguing but ultimately disappointing. I was nonetheless very much on board to see July’s latest, released a full nine years after her second, when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this past January. For the first time, July doesn’t appear in her film, and it builds on the transition she made between her first two films to feature a more typical narrative. The concepts continue to be totally peculiar, but the way in which the story is presented is actually quite normal...

    Evan Rachel Wood stars as Old Dolio, a young woman who lives with her parents Robert (Richard Jenkins) and Theresa (Debra Winger). Their primary activity is to find free stuff or barter to trade what they have for something that they deem more valuable. Coupons are currency that they believe they can exchange for their face value, something that many they meet find absurd. One elaborate scheme involves taking a flight simply to claim lost luggage, and that misadventure introduces Melanie (Gina Rodriguez), a chatty traveler who Robert sees as a potential partner and whose presence threatens to unravel the bizarre brand of stability that Old Dolio has always known.

    While this film’s events are presented in a familiar cinematic fashion, it’s most difficult to accept that any of these three protagonists could really exist in the world without being noticed for their oddities. They wear the same clothes each day, and in some cases, Old Dolio dons multiple outfits stacked on top of each other so that she can jump in to play a part when called upon for the sake of the con. They duck down and sneak past their landlord every day to avoid paying rent, and for some reason he doesn’t come looking for them when they’re not actively hiding from him. The three also make sure to be home each evening at a certain time so that they can stop the walls of their office space residence from leaking tremendous quantities of foam, a regular occurrence, from very literally destroying their livelihood.

    Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Richard Jenkins, Gina Rodriguez, Miranda July, and Evan Rachel Wood at the film's Sundance premiere in January

    Kajillionaire's premise and plot are fantastical, but that’s part of the appeal. July has assembled a formidable cast to make this wild experience undeniably compelling. Jenkins, who also stars inThe Last Shift, another Sundance film that was just released, has just the right demeanor for this role, and he’s well-matched by the wonderful Winger, who has mostly been doing television work in recent years. Rodriguez demonstrates once again afterAnnihilationthat she’s capable of much more than just a version of her star-makingJane the Virginrole, giving depth to a character who at first appearance seems to be nothing but vapid. Wood, who stood tall as the powerhouse of season three ofWestworld, is the most remarkable, using her body to her advantage and making Old Dolio seem even more larger-than-life due to the way that she carries herself in an incomparably lanky manner.

    July's latest is immersive and intriguing, and should serve as a pleasant reunion with her formidable imagination for fans. The writing is clever and entertaining, and she's found the right actors to give voice to her words. Overall, its strangeness keeps it from being fully satisfying, though it does reach a fitting conclusion that wraps its story arc. Knowing what you’re going to get may help to appropriately temper expectations. This is a weird, wacky movie that, somehow, manages to work.

    Kajillionaireisnow playingin select theaters from Focus Features.

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    Reader Comments (2)

    The trailer look painful

    September 30, 2020 |Unregistered CommenterJaragon

    I do want to see this as I hope it's a major improvement overThe Futurewhich was one of the worst films I had ever seen in my life.

    September 30, 2020 |Unregistered Commenterthevoid99