Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Kajillionaire Review: An Unconventional Quirky Con Adventure

Release date: September 25, 2020
Running time: 106 minutes
Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Debra Winger, Gina Rodriguez 

From writer/director Miranda July comes Kajillionaire, which follows con-artists Theresa (Debra Winger) and Robert (Richard Jenkins).  The couple 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 next scam, only to have their entire world turned upside down.

The setting of Kajillionaire is definitely unique, and one that is set up perfectly through some really great characters.  The entire grifter family is interesting and fully committed to this unconventional and sometimes annoying role.  They try to scam at every opportunity, and look at any new situation through the lens of taking advantage of people.  When they receive some sort of small boon, they try to turn it around into something else.  And this commitment is accomplished through some stellar acting.  Evan Rachel Wood completely transforms into Old Dolio, changing her speech, mannerisms, gait, and pretty much everything in between.  She is almost unrecognizable as Old Dolio.  Winger and Jenkins do not transform as much as Wood, but they are nonetheless fully committed to their roles and add humor and awkwardness whenever they are scheming.  And the introduction of Rodriguez is a wonderful one, where her slight naivete and willingness to learn from the family is a fun dynamic.

On top of the quirky characters, there is a lot about Kajillionaire that July gets right.  The writing is well done, with some funny and awkward humor.  And the overall style is perfect as well.  The character's mannerisms feel like those of a grifter family that has spent far too much time together.  There is one scene where they are trying to avoid someone that they had grifted already where the entire family walks in such a ridiculous, but uniform way to avoid being seen that you can't help but smile. And the music in the film was really well done.  It added dread when it was needed, and turned dreamlike in other sequences.  But despite all this, there were some aspects of Kajillionaire that I did not love.  The first is that the family is not very sympathetic.  Despite them being fully committed to the role, I just didn't feel much sympathy for this family who were constantly swindling, lying, and cheating to get just a little bit more.  And when bad things happened to them, I just didn't feel that bad about it.  It was tough to feel invested in them due to this.  Additionally, the story is a slow burn, but one that felt slow.  It makes this normal length movie feel like a slog at times, despite everything else that the film got so right.

Kajillionaire is not a con, it is a quirky, funny movie with an unconventional story and leads that completely transform into an awkward grifter family looking for one additional score.

Rent it.

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Kajillionaire is in theaters September 25.  For additional information about the film and to rent / buy it, check it out at the links below.

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