During the opening scene of Miranda July’s new movie “Kajillionaire,” words like eccentric, unconventional and even weird come to mind.
But keep watching.
As with 2005’s “Me and You and Everyone We Know” and 2011’s “The Future,” July brings across a somewhat unusual, even odd vibe to “Kajillionaire.” However, to lump her movies into their own genre and use those adjectives as the only descriptors, viewers will miss something deeper, richer and wonderful.
Starring “The Shape of Water’s” Richard Jenkins and veteran actress Debra Winger, most recently of Netflix’s “The Ranch,” as Robert and Teresa Dyne and Evan Rachel Wood as their daughter Old Dolio, the film is a journey of thoughtful, oddball, stylish, poignant and humorous flourishes. The Dynes are modern-day hippies with a disdain for materialism and the evils of society, and this they use as their rationale for a life of small time cons and survivalist-mode extractions of said society. Even their own daughter’s name has to do with a scheme that didn’t work out.
Played with a robotic delivery indicative of a child who has been raised without the nurturing we all desire, Wood’s Old Dolio is delicate, comedic, heartbreaking, and freeing in her portrayal and is indeed the heart of the film. Her awakening and her realizations are satisfying and hopeful, and have much to do with how we can indeed survive in the whacked out, narcissistic world we live in today.
Jenkins and Winger are their usual brilliant selves, sincere yet at the same time with a degree of coldness and detachment. Their movement throughout the film is as calculating and slippery as any of their schemes and even when they show signs of being real people, you always know they are never far from their con artist way of life. Their welcoming and almost loving attitude toward a newcomer, the fantastic and oblivious Melanie (played by Gina Rodriguez) creates a launching ground for Old Dolio’s evolution from remote con-partner to an aware, connected person. The entire story is fully of emotional transformations, painstaking realizations, and exhilarating triumphs.
It’s not your normal “family of grifters” movie. “Kajillionaire” is a commentary on so many things that our society has turned into, and in all its quirkiness and poignancy, it’s really rather difficult to describe without giving away wonderful plot points and surprises. Even though July’s films are an acquired taste for some, I urge you to keep watching.
“Kajillionaire” is a Focus Features release and is rated R for sexual references and language. Running time is 106 minutes. The movie opens in theaters on Sept. 25 and for video on demand in October.
My grade: A