Kajillionaire is a film brimming with strange quirks. Though this is understandably off-putting for some, I found myself really getting invested in this odd universe director Miranda July has created.
In this offbeat little indie, Evan Rachel Wood stars as a young woman who, along with her parents (Debra Winger and Richard Jenkins), gets by and lives day by day as a petty thief and con artist. They recruit another young woman (Gina Rodriguez), and things soon become strained and complicated between the four.
This is a film that takes a surprising amount of unexpected detours and turns throughout. From the at times unusual dialogue to the simply bizarre scenarios that unfold, nothing is ever quite what it seems in this film. There are times where this works really well, and there are other times where it seems random and pointless. It was pretty hit and miss. However, the four lead actors all give odd yet intriguing performances, with Wood and Rodriguez especially standing out to me by the film’s end. Each has their own motivations and personality that are separate from everyone else. Miranda July definitely knows what she is doing here. Her directing and writing feel so personal and intimate. She has crafted one of the most unique stories of the year.
Although the story seems to lose direction by the film’s final thirty minutes, the performances keep it interesting. Kajillionaire is at its best in its moments of absurdity, especially the shots of the pink foam that periodically seeps down through the ceiling tiles into the office. In their scenes together, the contrast between Wood’s mannered delivery and Gina Rodriguez’s more naturalistic performance is striking. But this is all marred by a cloying sentimentality that pervades the film. July also values kookiness for the sake of kookiness – reminding the viewer of the works of Spanish filmmaker and pioneer of surrealist cinema, Luis Buñuel – such as Old Dolio repeatedly listening to hold music on her phone and the acrobatics she performs before entering the post office. The surrealism in Buñuel’s late work is all the more effective because it’s set against a seemingly normal backdrop, whereas the world July creates is so zany that nothing stands out as particularly strange.
The accessibility of the film solely falls on how you react to the film’s quirkiness. If you’re willing to abide with July’s offbeat sense of character and story, you will gain access to a film which I think is one of the most inventive, meaningful and well devised. While some of the comedy didn’t hit, the sentimental moments were a resounding success. Overall, a story scattered and pointless at times, but quirky and endearing at others, combined with four great lead performances made this an enjoyable watch.