Kajillionaire, a must-see, satirical, coming-of-age film the queer community is going to love

An insightful look in what it means to be human through the eyes of a dysfunctional family of scam artists

Arts Arts and Culture Brian Webb

This article was published on September 22nd, 2020

Kajillionaire, a Focus Features film written and directed by Miranda July, follows the Dynes, Robert (Richard Jenkins), and Theresa (Debra Winger) and their 26-year young daughter Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood). The Dynes are an opportunistic L.A. trio living in a low-rent building next to a bubble factory. They are a family of scam artists who use every opportunity to make a quick buck at other people’s expense.

From the official synopsis for “Kajillionaire” from Focus Features, “Con-artists Theresa and Robert have spent 26 years training their only daughter, to defraud, scam, and steal at every opportunity. During a desperate, hastily conceived heist, they charm a stranger Melanie (Gina Rodriguez) into joining their next scam, only to have their entire world turned upside down.”

(L to R) Evan Rachel Wood as “Old Dolio Dyne”, Debra Winger as “Theresa Dyne” and Richard Jenkins as “Robert Dyne” in director Miranda July’s KAJILLIONAIRE, a Focus Features release. Credit : Matt Kennedy / Focus Features

Upside down

The Dynes, in their infinite wisdom, homeschooled their daughter, Old Dalio. It turns out a master-class disaster leaving Old Dalio ill exposed to the world and suppressing her emotions.

Unfortunately, offspring will yearn to declare their independence and define their identities in total opposition to the people who brought them up. For Old Dalio, that moment started to happen when she met Melanie and discovered her own softer side.

Melanie appears in the movie like an ambassador from the ordinary world of the rest of us. Her vitality, openness, and enthusiasm for gadgets, pop culture fashion, and more, in a refreshing alternative that viewers identify with. She brings an emotional depth to the film that sows the seeds of change in Old Dolio.

As such, the film is less about the con and more about the connection. Old Dalio’s and Melanie’s relationship opens up feelings for the former, which she didn’t know she had given her sheltered background.

Gina Rodriguez (left) stars as “Melanie” and Evan Rachel Wood (right) stars as “Old Dolio Dyne” in director Miranda July’s KAJILLIONAIRE, a Focus Features release. Credit : Matt Kennedy / Focus Features

It’s a tender relationship that brings out the best and worst, especially in Old Dalio, who is experiencing these “weird feelings” for a fellow human being for the first time. Her surprising connection with Melanie challenges Old Dolio’s stoic view of reality. She suddenly finds herself torn between the only family and world she has known all her life and the idea of complete freedom.

In a way, Kajillionaire is an unconventional coming-of-age story, where love and affection provide the catalyst that stokes the change.

The film charts Old Dolio’s journey towards realizing that she can make different choices for herself separate from her family. Her experience is that of any child and young adult still discovering and modeling their world.

Film reviews

A senior IndieWire film critic David Ehrlich gave “Kajillionaire” a positive review from Sundance, calling it “a minor-key sketch of a movie with soulful undercurrents that sneak into a cynical plot.”

Ehrlich continued, “Elevated by an extraordinary Evan Rachel Wood performance that finds her character discovering her free will, “Kajillionaire” splits the difference between “Shoplifters” and “Parasite”: It’s an understated dramedy with bite, oscillating from the implication that family bonds are bullshit to the conclusion that everybody deserves a little tough love.”

(L to R) Richard Jenkins as “Robert Dyne”, Debra Winger as “Theresa Dyne” and Evan Rachel Wood as “Old Dolio Dyne” in director Miranda July’s KAJILLIONAIRE, a Focus Features release. Credit : Matt Kennedy / Focus Features

Film info and release date

Focus Features will release KAJILLIONAIRE in theaters on September 25, 2020.

Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner produced the film through Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment. The studio is behind such hits as “12 Years A Slave”, “Moonlight,” and “The Last Black Man in San Francisco.” Plan B collaborated with Annapurna Pictures in producing the film, while Focus Features bought distribution rights following Sundance.

Director Miranda July (left) and director of photography Sebastian Wintero (right) on the set of KAJILLIONAIRE, a Focus Features release. Credit : Matt Kennedy / Focus Features

Written and Directed by Miranda July

Produced by: Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, Youree Henley

Executive Produced by Brad Pitt, Megan Ellison, Jillian Longnecker

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

Kajillionaire is one of the must-see indie films to watch this fall season.

Watch the Official Trailer:

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