Miranda July’s third feature “Kajillionaire” is one of the most affecting and visionary films of the year. A film of great sadness that delivers affirming joy and bittersweet empathy. July continues her distinctive and idiosyncratic style of quirky humor and powerfully moving character depth where there is always grace to be found in within her framework.
Her debut feature “Me and You and Everyone We Know” was a remarkable masterpiece about individuals trying to find purpose, meaning, and human connections in their mundane suburban lives. Her second feature “The Future” was even more existential, as it was about the passage of time and feeling bogged down with many of societal pressures between a young married couple where their existence made them feel much older, and her latest “Kajillionaire” carries on her unique vision as being her most mature and wisest work to date, a film that merges her deadpan hilarity with deep sincerity.
“Kajillionaire” carries on with her otherworldly style that is part caper movie, and ultimately, an odd coming-of-age movie about a twenty-something young woman trying to capture the human experience that was deprived from her throughout her entire life. By far more narrative driven than July’s previous films, “Kajillionaire” is still just as transcendent as it focuses on the world of Old Dolio (Even Rachel Wood), a socially awkward, deep voiced, timid, yet sneaky young grifter who wears oversized jackets, track suits, and has long ungroomed hair that serve as a metaphor as a young woman who is shielded away from the outside world of the human experience.
Trapped in a lifestyle of thievery and petty grifting with her equally eccentric parents Theresa (Debra Winger) and Robert (Robert Jenkins) have always used Old Dolio as a prop to achieve their crimes for survival. She has certainly been exploited and emotionally abused throughout the course of her entire life as she moves on from one minor theft to another as they never show any affection or compassion. Their main priorities are just surviving day-to-day.
July never gives any insights or motivations to why Theresa and Robert live in this desperate lifestyle, or how they became such unloving parents. July is much wiser than than, she just allows the viewer to live in Old Dolio’s world where she slips through moments where she begins to experience unfamiliar affection. July constructs another deep vision that is also otherworldly, like a Wes Anderson or even a David Lynch film, her films have their own universes that feel alien on their own.
The trio of characters go on routine petty heists, one that is beautifully choreographed where Old Dolio sneaks into a post office as she maneuvers herself through somersaults as she ducks around moving surveillance cameras before she eventually breaks into mailboxes to steal outgoing parcels that might involve small gifts, gift cards, and money.
The desperate family also cleverly and literally duck under from their desperate landlord (Mark Ivanir), a teary-eyed factory owner of Bubbles Inc. who is easily forgiving to their plights, but eventually stands up for himself and gives Robert and Theresa a final warning to pay their past due rent within two weeks. Their residence of course isn’t a place of normalcy, as they live in an abandoned office space inside the factory in which a pinky foam comes out of machines and through the walls each day at 4 p.m. that leads Old Dolio always cleaning up the foamy mess. On the grip of losing their residence, the family embark on their next scheme that involves scamming an airline industry for insurance money for lost luggage.
While on the plane we are introduced to Melanie (Gina Rodriquez), an enthusiastic, assertive, and extroverted young woman who is instantly drawn to the peculiar family. Melanie too is a lonely woman, but far from being as timid and shy as the introverted Old Dolio. She is also very well-groomed, feminine, independent, and Robert and Theresa end up showing her much more affection that never showed Old Dolio.
There are numerous absolutely beautiful and tender moments to Old Dolio’s state of loneliness in which she gets a massage from a masseur (After she fails to cash in a gift voucher that was found in a stolen envelope from the post office), as the masseur begins to touch her neck and back Old Dolio feels a sensation as if this the first time human hands have touched her body, this leads to a beautiful shot of Old Dolio shedding a tear during a low-angle close-up through a hole as this new found feeling has been misplaced from her this entire time.
Another moment involves Old Dolio attending a therapy group where she participates with the speaker of the group as she begins to touch her hair and express the love and human connection she has been searching for. Another one involves Old Dolio helping Melanie remove her broken fake nail at a restaurant. The way July captures the intimacy and longing in that moment of the film is nothing short of touching.
Each of the characters in July’s world seek community. However, they are also very insecure, they often choose alternate paths to sway them away from making better decisions out of anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. Her characters and moments are often sad and the moments are surreal and grounded in a hyperreal style. The film also moves you with a marvelous score by Emile Mosseri which is the most memorable score that heightens the emotion of the characters experiences and mood.
Perhaps July’s story is even more resonant in times like this, especially for many single people who live alone in days of lockdowns, social distancing, second waves, and quarantine during a pandemic where first dates, hugs, passionate kisses, and other forms of human intimacy seem out of reach for many. July affirms in a very hopeful note that we all deserve happiness, a reassuring joy how human connection, physical contact, and affection can transcend and elevate anyone out of solitude.
July has now certainly proved she is a brilliant auteur that truly holds fondness for her characters. She knows how to invite us into the world of lonely people wanting to experience the human condition. July does it in a very quirky and precious way where she also finds catharsis, especially in its encouraging and tender closing moments that gives the viewer reassurance, along with a greater understanding of themselves and the world around them.