Review: There's more depth to 'Kajillionaire' than its kooky tone suggests

(L to R) Richard Jenkins as "Robert Dyne", Debra Winger as "Theresa Dyne" and Evan Rachel Wood as "Old Dolio Dyne" in director Miranda July's KAJILLIONAIRE, a Focus Features release. Credit : Matt Kennedy / Focus Features

3.5 out of 5 Stars
Miranda July
Writer: Miranda July
Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Debra Winger, Richard Jenkins, Gina Rodriguez
Genre: Crime, Drama
Rated: R for some sexual references/language

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — Synopsis: Old Dolio is a young woman with very little life experience. Sheltered by her parents, a pair of small-time criminals and scam artists, her perception of family relationships is more of a business agreement than it is about love.

Review: “Kajillionaire” could be mistaken for just a silly movie about strange people who go to no lengths to avoid having to work (even if their schemes require more time and energy than an actual job would. We really shouldn’t be laughing. Theresa (Debra Winger) and Robert (Richard Jenkins) are essentially anti everything. They cheat and they steal from the system, but their greatest crime is the way they’ve raised their daughter.

Old Dolio (Even Rachel Wood) has no notion of what love is. The idea of being loved is completely foreign to her. She views herself as one third of a family business where whatever nefarious profits are made are split equally. There is no her; there is only them. And Theresa and Robert aren’t even good at being crooks. This isn’t the family from “Parasite” who have made something functional out of their refusal to conform. The family in “Kajillionaire” is broken and Old Dolio might be beyond repair.

That doesn’t mean Melanie (Gina Rodriguez), a stranger they meet on a flight where Theresa, Robert and Old Dolio are setting up a lost luggage scheme, isn’t going to try and undo the damage the bad parenting has done.

Initially Melanie recognizes the trio as the perfect partners to involve in a heist she is planning. Half-way through planning the heist takes a second seat to saving Old Dolio from her dead-end future.

For as heavy as the material sounds, director/writer Miranda July keeps the mood as light as possible. It’s kooky, but July isn’t gaslighting as much as she is setting up the third act.

The problem is that I struggled to get to the third act. I hated time spent with Theresa and Robert. I know that is probably what July intended, but more time spent developing Melanie as a person would have been a far more effective way to advance the story. I know everything I want to know about Theresa and Robert in the first act. They are never interesting because there is nothing redemptive about them.

“Kajillionaire” is a good film with something substantial to say. It never surrenders to its flaws, but it is hindered by them. Certainly worth a look.

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