Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Debra Winger, Gina Rodriguez
Director: Miranda July
Running Time: 106 mins
Kajillionaire is an American film about a family of eccentric scam artists whose life begins to unravel when a young woman outside the family joins their grifting operation.
There’s no getting away from it: Kajillionaire is an odd film. At first, it seems like a movie made for the sake of being weird, but as its story unfolds, you begin to see the method to Miranda July’s madness, with an ultimately touching, bittersweet tale of personal independence making for a memorable watch.
First things first, if you’re not party to a little bit of eccentricity and dry humour, you might find Kajillionaire rather inaccessible at first. Undeniably, the film struggles to find its feet in an eye-catching but admittedly dull opening act, as we follow the strange day-to-day exploits of a family of scam artists.
Evan Rachel Wood, Debra Winger and Richard Jenkins are fantastic in those roles, but there’s very little to their characters early on, and it takes a while for Kajillionaire to really grab you with any real dramatic depth.
Fortunately, things take a turn for the better with the arrival of Gina Rodriguez, who brings a little bit of sense to an otherwise totally bizarre world. The film retains its offbeat sense of humour, but to have that grounded perspective with Rodriguez’s excellent performance really helps you to find an in with this family, and the story begins to work off that really nicely.
Unfolding in thoroughly engaging fashion from then on, Kajillionaire deals with a range of interesting and sobering themes including poverty, neglect, abuse, all with a tinge of odd, dark humour to make it that little bit easier to stomach. Admittedly, the film’s stranger side does occasionally undermine some of its more serious ideas, but without that charisma, it would likely have been a far less interesting watch.
Kajillionaire really comes good in its final act, however, where it begins to push the boat in terms of weirdness, but also in real, challenging drama. The run to the finish here features some of the movie’s oddest moments, but also some of its most affecting and heart-wrenching ones, as we follow Evan Rachel Wood as she begins to discover the world for herself – away from her parents’ unique worldview.
Along with Rodriguez, Wood is really fantastic and brings an impressive dramatic dynamic to a film that can occasionally feel a little emotionally opaque. Again, its themes aren’t quite as hard-hitting because of its oddity, but there is real, affecting drama in the film’s final stages, and that really caps it off in impressive fashion.
Overall, I liked Kajillionaire. It’s not a perfect film, and perhaps doesn’t manage to use its capacity for eccentricity to full effect, but there’s still a worthy story to be heard here. With great performances, interesting themes and unique humour, it’s a memorable, if not undeniably odd watch, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.6.