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“Kajillionaire” Is A Quirky New Effort From Miranda July

How much quirk is too much quirk? That question is one that everyone has to answer for themselves. That being said, there’s always a point at which things go over the top and a film stops being enjoyable. Some can stand more than others. I, for example, really have very little that’s “too quirky” for me. Then came Kajillionaire, which is so specific in its quirk and approach, that I struggled to get on board with it. Now, the acting is strong, the visuals are interesting, and the ending is absolutely wonderful. At the same time, I didn’t fall in love with it like most did. Opening this weekend, it demands to be seen, though the reception may well be mixed.

The movie is a quirky dramedy, operating on its own very specific and sometimes even bizarre wavelength. Husband and wife con artists Robert (Richard Jenkins) and Theresa (Debra Winger) have spent the past 26 years training their only daughter Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood) to be like them. Taught to scam and swindle at every possible moment, the family lives on the edge of society, staying off the grid and just getting by. In the midst of their latest heist, which isn’t quite as well thought out as some of their past ones, they meet a stranger named Melanie (Gina Rodriguez) She’s taken by them, and at least Robert and Theresa are charmed by her. They join forces, which upset the balance of the family. As they each deal with changes in the dynamic, Old Dolio struggles the most, even as she and Melanie begin to form a bond that shows her a new way of looking at the world. Miranda July writes and directs, with cinematography by Sebastian Winterø, while Emile Mosseri composes the score. Mark Ivanir, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and more round out the cast.

Evan Rachel Wood leads a cast that’s quite game for the material. Wood gets to slowly come alive over the course of the flick’s running time, turning in work that’s really unlike anything you’ve seen out of her before. Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger are their reliably strong selves, lending low-key gravitas to the material, which really does need it. Then, there’s Gina Rodriguez, who is almost out of another movie, entirely. That’s the point, and she’s a welcome burst of charisma, but it’s also another odd element that sometimes makes things hard to be fully compelled by. She’s good, no doubt, but so many dissimilar elements make for strange bedfellows, and it lefts me a bit puzzled, overall.

Kajillionaire is a Miranda July film, through and through. For her fans, that’s going to be more than enough. If you’ve never liked one of July’s works, that’s not going to change here, I don’t think. I’m very much stuck in the middle, though I freely admit the early sequences are enjoyable, there’s a central scene involving a bit of acting by the family that’s truly moving, and the ending is kind of beautiful. It’s just what threads it all together that left me a little bit cold. I’m in the minority, but I can’t help feeling this way, unfortunately.

Starting tomorrow, those of you who are in the mood for something very different should check out Kajillionaire. Now, whether you enjoy the flick or not, that remains to be seen. I loved the ending, but struggled with some of the middle portions. You might agree. You might disagree. Either way, it’s a unique film that’s worth seeing, if only to find out where you land on it. It’s bizarre, regardless.

Kajillionaire is available to watch on Friday.

(Photos Courtesy of Focus Features)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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