Kajillionaire (4 stars)

Kajillionaire

LFF 2020: Evan Rachel Wood is terrific in Miranda July's surreal and touching crime caper

Heist movies have traditionally been the preserve of a certain kind of macho male. Fusing the criminal caper with an eccentric indie flick and foregrounding a wildly dysfunctional clan instead, Miranda July's Kajillionaire feels like a breath of giddily intoxicating air – a film as silly as it is sad, as romantic as it is cynical. It's buoyed further by a terrific, highly uncharacteristic turn from Evan Rachel Wood as the unfortunately named Old Dolio, a 26-year-old woman who dresses and acts like a 90s surfer dude.

Old Dolio is the tragic product of some truly shocking parenting. Named after a lottery winning homeless man who her parents hoped to impress, she has never experienced tenderness. Instead, she's been raised by Robert (Richard Jenkins) and Theresa (Debra Winger) as the third partner in their extraordinarily low-rent criminal enterprise. They make the meagrest of livings from a variety of grifts, thefts and schemes. In a beautifully bonkers touch, the trio reside in a disused office attached to a bubble factory, with bubbles seeping through their ceiling and needing to be dashed away in buckets at regular intervals.

Old Dolio's ignominious existence is enlivened by the arrival of the sweet and sparkly Melanie (Gina Rodriguez), who the family meet mid con. Melanie initially gets a thrill from her association with these crooks but, when push comes to shove, her conscience sets her apart.

The director of Me and You and Everyone We Know and The Future, July is also a singer, actress, author and artist. Her distinctive voice is in evidence once again; there's a lightness irrespective of the dark material, plenty of pathos lurking below the extremely surreal surface, and a real affection for outsiders. It's great to see Oscar favourites Winger and Jenkins as such nutty, contemptible characters (the former, like many older actresses, seems to have largely fallen from favour). And Wood and Rodriguez are adorable as they fumble their way toward forging a connection, finding friendship and more amid the madness.

Screening on BFI Player on Wed 7 Oct as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2020. In cinemas from Fri 9 Oct.

Kajillionaire

  • 4 stars
  • 2020
  • US
  • 1h 46min
  • Directed by: Miranda July
  • Cast: Evan Rachel Wood, Debra Winger, Gina Rodriguez, Richard Jenkins

From acclaimed writer/director Miranda July comes a profoundly moving and wildly original comedy. Con-artists Theresa (Debra Winger) and Robert (Richard Jenkins) have spent 26 years training their only daughter, Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood), to swindle, scam, and steal at every opportunity. During a desperate, hastily…

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