Kajillionaire movie review & film summary (2020)

July’s best and most mature work to date, the often hilarious and gradually heartbreaking “Kajillionaire” almost recapitulates the writer/director’s above-mentioned experiential artistic interests, digging deep into the world of a twenty-something who has been consistently denied any form of sincere human touch and connection her entire life. She is the awkwardly postured Los Angeles dweller Old Dolio (a sneakily affecting Evan Rachel Wood), sporting baggy jackets, peculiar track suits and a longer-than necessary mid-parted hair over her permanently sullen face and slouchy shoulders. Stuck in a cycle of petty crime with her equally bizarre parents Theresa (Debra Winger) and Robert (Richard Jenkins)—of course they are bizarre, having named their daughter “Old Dolio” as if to punish her from birth—the helpless daughter cheats her way from one small-time theft to the next, sharing all the minor gains with her folks three-ways, without attaining a shred of intimacy or term of endearment in return.

July doesn’t drop in any clues here and there to help us understand when or why exactly the grifter duo Theresa and Robert chose to lead this stick-it-to-the-man lifestyle, or how they became so incapable of showing affection to their offspring whom they seem heartlessly detached from. Instead, the filmmaker earns the viewer’s trust and consent straightaway through her confident sense of rhythm and sure-handed world-building. Seen through Sebastian Winterø’s fluid lens, July’s trio of characters move through, blend in, and interact with their surroundings in such a smooth and diligently fabricated fashion that we completely buy their unusual authenticity from the get-go, all the way from the opening moments of the film when the family launches into one of their routine post office heists. With hysterical steps involving a somersault here and a tumble there (supposedly to avoid security cameras), the clumsily willowy Old Dolio barges into the building just to rob the mailboxes adjacent to theirs for things as worthless as a tie. 

Elsewhere, their elastic motions keep them away from the eyes of a desperate landlord, a weak-willed but kindly man who gives his poor tenants the final ultimatum to pay their overdue rent in a few weeks. Not that the light-starved residence in question is habitable by any standards. Located inside a factory-like space, its walls frequently leak a pink, soapy substance that the trio regularly collects in buckets with such a sense of duty and normalcy that the whole scene looks like a weird art installation that satirizes the impossibility of urban living. (Notable production design by Sam Lisenco somehow manages to make all such oddities look effortless.) Still, with no intention to lose their cheap accommodation, the family plans their next “big” con, aiming to scam an airline for insurance money on lost luggage.

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