Miranda July Shows Us What It’s Like to Try to Become a ‘Kajillionaire’

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Kajillionaire (CREDIT: Matt Kennedy/Focus Features)

Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Richard Jenkins, Debra Winger, Gina Rodriguez

Director: Miranda July

Running Time: 106 Minutes

Rating: R for A Kajillionaire’s Worth of Language and Sexual References

Release Date: September 25, 2020 (Select Theaters)

Everyone wants to be a kajillionaire, isn’t that true? We simply won’t be satisfied until we reach that level of nonsensical wealth. That’s the driving premise behind Miranda July’s new film Kajillionaire, which tells the story of a family of emotionally stunted scam artists trying to pull off their next big heist. As this movie demonstrates, the environments that we grow up in can lead us to behave in certain ways that look positively insane to outsiders. Old Dolio Dyne (Evan Rachel Wood) sure looks resentful of the shenanigans her parents (Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger) wrangle her into, but she doesn’t really know any other way to live.

I’ve been practicing a movie review routine lately in which I judge the success of the movie by whether or not it makes me want to do the thing that it’s about. So then, does Kajillionaire make me want to be a kajillionaire? Not particularly, thank you, I’m perfectly fine with earning just enough cash to be comfortable. But if I dig a little deeper, what I really should be asking is: would I like to make that cheddar by running confidence games with my family? I can see the kookiness of the appeal, which I’m sure the Dyne family and July would be glad to hear. But at a certain point, I need a foundation of logic and economic stability in my life. I think Gina Rodriguez’s character can relate. She plays Melanie, an audience surrogate type who’s a big fan of the Ocean’s 11 films and gets recruited by the Dynes during a turbulent plane ride and just has plenty of fun with the whole theatricality of their schemes. But eventually things get a little sloppy and way too much to handle for anyone with a decent amount of emotional maturity.

The limits of my particular reviewing strategy are obvious with movies like Kajillionaire when it’s clear that they’re not exactly advertising the behavior on display. But July does have a knack for generating empathy in a way that can make you wonder if you actually would like us to emulate her lead characters as they navigate their wacky and thorny situations. For Old Dolio, continuing to live with her parents doesn’t just mean continuously navigating an existence outside the law, it also means a living situation that involves renting an empty office space that keeps getting flooded with bubbles. And it further means reckoning with an “apology” in the form of receiving a set of presents for all the birthdays her mom and dad missed. So let me refine my question once more: do I want to live life on the edge and then ultimately find the wherewithal to strike out on my own as much as is necessary for my own mental health (as Old Dolio ultimately must)? Maybe for a couple of hours.

Kajillionaire is Recommended If You Like: Weirdo names, Baggy tracksuits, Random bouts of limbo

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Tremors

‘Frozen II’ Only Makes Sense If You’re From Arendelle

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CREDIT: Disney

In Frozen II, Elsa hears a mysterious voice calling out to her from the forest. There’s some gee-gaw mystical explanation by the end about what that’s all about, but its ultimate purpose seems to be making her realize that she ought to be living on her own out in the forest. It’s hard not to read queer subtext into that, if you’re at all open to the possibility that there could be queer subtext in an animated Disney movie. So that’s how that goes, and meanwhile, there’s plenty more going on elsewhere, as Elsa and Anna stumble across some soldiers who have been fighting each other for decades while also trying to understand the important messages their parents have left for them. Plus, Kristoff attempts to propose to Anna while she keeps misinterpreting him in maddeningly over-the-top fashion, Olaf keeps telling us that water remembers, when ALL OF A SUDDEN, I’m so overwhelmed that I’m now doing a Phil Donahue impression (or at least an impression of Darrell Hammond’s Donahue impression). Arendelle is a busy place. Sometimes it’s exhausting.

I give Frozen II One Million Voices out of a Million and a Half Water Memories.