With COVID-19 still permeating every aspect of life, Miranda July’s Kajillionaire arrives as a replacement to the bigger studio films that have been pushed back, canceled or released on streaming services instead. July, who wrote and directed, is her latest look into relationships and intimacy through the eyes of oddballs. July made similar examinations in 2005’s You and Me and Everyone We Know and 2011’s The Future, but be mindful that the multi-faceted artist isn't presenting a normal story.

To provide some backstory, Miranda July isn’t just a filmmaker. She’s an actress, a performance artist, musician and an author. Some may view her an oddball, so it shouldn't come as a surpsie July's body of work is just that. Viewers must take that into account when screening Kajillionaire, which stars Evan Rachel Wood, Debra Winger, Gina Rodriguez and Richard Jenkins, because slapping this feature with a typical genre tag will limit audiences’ impartiality.

In that sense, to make Kajillionaire marketable, it's plugged as a heist film. But it’s not a heist film in the Ocean’s 11 sense, although its main characters, Old Dolio Dyne (Wood) and her parents, Robert (Jenkins) and Theresa (Winger), are low-level con artists. July shows them at work – lifting packages from the post office; running a lost luggage scam at the airport; or cashing a stolen personal check. With the Dolios in financial trouble, Robert and Theresa bring in Melanie Whitacre (Rodriguez) to help with their “big” heist - that choice having profound effect on Old Dolio. It’s here where July’s vision comes into focus and Kajillionaire becomes a story of self-discovery.

Playing into that idea is Old Dolio, who was raised as a con artist by her parents. Because of that, and the notion that Robert and Theresa preferred to not treat their child as a child (even when Old Dolio was a child), has left their daughter lacking social skills. Sporting long hair, no makeup and an oversized tracksuit, Old Dolio is a shopping cart away from bag lady status. Wood breathes life into the mundane and non-emotive Old Dolio, who, for all the Westworld fans, is more of an android than Delores Abernathy. Thankfully, Wood is fantastic because with Kajillionaire’s myriad of oddities, Wood’s performance provides a solid foundation to move past the abnormalities and towards discovering Old Dolio's (and Kajillionaire's) odd charm.

Opposite Old Dolio is Melanie, a typical twentysomething Cali girl. Melanie is outgoing and carefree and doesn’t mind showing some skin for attention. Melanie is the antithesis of Old Dolio – she makes an effort to look and act a certain way. Her keen interest in the Dolios’ scheming way-of-life, though, hints at a yearning for something more. Rodriguez is good as she lets loose a bit, but she reels Melanie in just enough for viewers to realize there’s more to her than what she’s actively conveying.

Old Dolio and Melanie represent a balance and intimacy which July passionately wants to explore. July juxtaposes this unlikely relationship with Old Dorie’s relationship with her parents and the results are simple but interesting. It’s easy to ask what the real con is, who’s really being conned and who's doing the con because the Dolio family dynamic isn’t as harmonious as it should to be.

Kajillionaire is a quirky and dryly funny comedy-drama that’s surprisingly honest for a tale involving lies and deception. Fantastic performances can be seen throughout (Richard Jenkins is a master of playing oddball characters; Winger is excellent, although underused) and they parlay themselves into sincerity and heart. This isn’t for everyone, but July’s latest is her most accessible and most mature work.

3.5 stars out of 5


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