Kajillionaire

The Plot:

Father Robert (Richard Jenkins), mother Theresa (Debra Winger) and daughter Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood) work tirelessly daily to get ahead in their meager lives. They sleep in an abandoned office in exchange for wrangling the soap foam that leaks down the wall from the warehouse next door.

Robert, Theresa and Old Dolio are grifters, always working an angle, always sending Old Dolio as the point person to score for her parents.

When Melanie (Gina Rodriguez) joins this Eccentric trio, she inadvertently exposes a growing rift between Old Dolio and her parents, forcing this family to take stock and decide their path.

Kent's Take:

What a surprise! What a joy! “Kajillionaire” makes it rain with a quirky story populated with odd characters.

Old Dolio (even the story behind her name propels the story) is a 26-year-old woman with heart and smarts, but has been emotionally stunted by parents hell-bent on working the system to get something for nothing. As this gloriously zany story unfolds, we begin to learn that the seemingly loveable Robert and Theresa have one allegiance – that to their next score – not their daughter.

Writer/director Miranda July creates a gem that will keep you smirking, giggling and cheering throughout as Old Dolio embarks upon a journey of self-discovery. Using excellent pacing and an artful eye, July captures an unseen world for viewers to experience –a world that is fascinating and ebullient.

Yet, what makes this focused film sparkle is the writing. Blending Old Dolio’s struggles with maturity offers a nuance that polishes this tale. Her realization that she is unsatisfied with her life is peppered throughout a memorable lark – a yin and yang tug-of-war that moves this story perfectly.

The cast embellishes this tale with depth and skill. Wood is both sad and vulnerable, yet strong – a difficult balance to write and act. Winger perfectly sets us up with quirky dialogue only to stomp on Old Dolio (and our emotions) with her bluntness. Jenkins gives his usual wonderful performance as a totally believable oddball, convincing us that the earthquakes throughout the film truly hold significance in all of their lives.

This excellent film is one of my favorites so far this year offering laughs; an off-balance narrative, excellent performances and memorable writing that should make everyone involved a – “Kajillionaire.”

Lynn’s Take:

For centuries, we have been used to family dysfunction propelling comedies and dramas. Along comes the strange “Kajillionaire” with its unconventional story and bizarre characters, giving us a refreshing dip into a surreal world.

It won the Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and it is easy to see why — this daffiness allows a different look at the family unit.

A tale about career grifters shines brightest because of the caliber of actors. The minute I heard Debra Winger’s voice as the Mom, I was so happy to see her back on screen - and she doesn’t disappoint. The term Mom is used loosely for there is not a maternal bone in her body.

And that’s all the more heart-wrenching to see Evan Rachel Wood as this socially awkward 26-year-old who is basically her parents’ prop, the dutiful daughter who has never enjoyed the good parts of growing up.

Wood is an elegant beauty who has been acting since she was a kid and is best known for her Emmy-nominated role as Dolores in “Westworld.” As Old Dolio, she is a revelation, all sharp angles, dowdy clothes and deadpan voice. She creates some depth as an innocent in emotional development, enough to tug on your heartstrings.

Richard Jenkins is smooth as a con artist and Gina Rodriguez is bubbly as a game girl who has seen too much TV. She’s in way over her head - or is she?

As one of the year’s best ensembles, they make this unpredictable and idiosyncratic journey palatable, even at its wackiest.

Writer-director Miranda July has been an independent voice for some time, and her view on life is unusual and funny. But ultimately she connects us, with lonely characters showing their vulnerability and breaking through emotionally.

Recently, a few films have been released with multiple layers that require mental acuity and stamina to make it through a labyrinth (“Tenet,” “I’m Thinking of Ending Things”). This might be a head-scratcher for some, but I embraced its unexpected daffiness.

I’ll take original any day over safe and same old thing.