Miranda July's latest feels much like a Miranda July movie
And now for something completely different…
Artist and filmmaker Miranda July lives in her own atmosphere. Her world is eccentric and often awkward, but there’s warmth and heart in there as well.
Her third and latest film, “Kajillionaire,” follows her 2005 debut “Me and You and Everyone We Know” and 2011’s “The Future.” If you’ve seen those, you’ll know what to expect. If you haven’t, you’ll have no idea, and you’ll either fine this world delightful or just baffling.
“Kajillionaire” is also July’s first feature that she doesn’t also star in. In this case, she has a highly talented stand-in: Evan Rachel Wood, who plays Old Dolio, the adult daughter of parents Robert (Richard Jenkins) and Theresa (Debra Winger). The family lives in Los Angeles and gets through life through small-scale cons.
We meet them on a bus stop outside a post office. As her parents stand guard, Old Dolio “sneaks” into the post office with a series of exaggerated actions that are a mix between a child playing soldier and a sort of herky-jerky parkour.
Once inside, Old Dolio works with the precision of a safe-cracker, evoking a heist movie like “Ocean’s 11.” What she’s really doing is just opening some P.O. boxes the family has rented to reach into other mailboxes and steal mail, hoping for something of value.
Another of the family’s side hustles? Removing pink foam overflowing into a warehouse next to a bubble factory, in a scene beautifully shot for quirky aside.
With rent overdue, the family plots a (slightly) bigger scam that leaves them crossing paths with the vivacious and outgoing Melanie (Gina Rodriguez), in whom they eventually find an unlikely partner.
July’s films are unlike any others. As for the levels of awkward, Charlie Kaufman comes to mind, although “Kajillionaire” is miles warmer than Kaufman’s recent “I’m Thinking of Ending Things.”
But that’s a good place to take the temperature. Old Dolio and her parents are eccentric to the point they sometimes feel like they came from another planet. They all share the same odd intonation in their voices (something that some might find off-putting).
And Jenkins and Winger are great casting choices, creating the odd background that developed Old Dolio into an odd apple that didn’t fall far from the odd tree. But that’s where Wood truly shines — as an adult who grew up too close to a sheltered family. This eccentricity is all she knows.
And it’s Rodriguez’s Melanie who brings her out of this shell. The film’s unusual (of course) climax sets up one of the year’s most memorable films, evocative of Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas morning.
If you know and love July, this is a must. If you’re not as open to the offbeat, ask your doctor if “Kajillionaire” is right for you.