Idiosyncratic Recluse: KAJILLIONAIRE
An oddity with an offbeat demeanor, scavenging on the side of life, with ruthless compromise, vacant of familial bonding where survival is the only prize, all while dismissing the trap of capitalistic living.
Miranda July's quirky comedy KAJILLIONAIRE is strangely built, nearly echoing familiar ties to the tone of NAPOLEON DYNAMITE meets BRIGSBY BEAR meets CAPTAIN FANTASTIC. It's sweet, offbeat, and thoroughly fleshed out with the deep concept of human connection, and what happens when it's withheld, manifests the discovery of a person who struggles to process, comprehend and yearn for it. This is my first Miranda July film and it's weirdly brilliant, how she layers the story. It's almost like an infant being nurtured into a grown up but in reverse. The awkward, and socially stunted 26 year old, Old Dolio (Rachel Evan Wood) and her "parents" Robert (Richard Jenkins) and Theresa (Debra Winger) are living an extremely bargain-basement life on the outskirts of society. This is indicated in the opening sequence as we step into their highly routine act of being calculated scam artists as they steal packages from the post office in rib-tickling hilarity. They end up with an expensive tie and a stuffed animal they can return to Target and that's how they make money. Returning things that don't belong to them for cold hard cash. I mean this is the secret to living under the raider when you refuse to accept the 9-5, I have a mortgage, old chain and ball lifestyle. It can be exciting and rough and confusing. I weirdly admire those kinds of folks, who fly by the seat of their pants, who lack the appealing desire of stability, those are the true independent nomads of today's tribe and successful, societal, class types totally loathe them. Also I've been watching way too much SUCCESSION.
Despite the wonky family dynamic, this film is a hoot. If you had nothing but time to conjure up all different kinds of scams to work the system in your favor then all the power to you. It takes a particular personality to accomplish such a lifestyle. Robert and Theresa don't like being told what to do or how to live, in fact I don't even think they really mustered up the fortitude of parenthood, because their daughter is like a freaking lab experiment molded in the shape of a creature starving for love and connection, but instead is scraping by with duped wit. Oddly enough, the thing her parents never gave her occurs when they invite a newcomer, Melanie (Gina Rodriguez) into the mix, which completely unravels the dynamic. Melanie embraces the family's next heist while Old Dolio is at a crossroads between having been living with her family dynamic for all her life, to discovering why she needs nurturing and love at this point in her life. You see.... you can be doing the same dead end job forever but without love, connection and purpose, the existential dread and lack of fulfillment will upend everything. Melanie sees the sweetness in Old Dolio and wants to help her out by being her friend. She see's what monsters her parents are and it's just enough for her to spring into action. Of course when the parents' are on their own with Old Dolio this causes a rumble, which is ironic in the sense that throughout the course of the film there are constant earthquakes. And maybe that represents the change in the course of someone's life. You need the shakeup to feel and make decisions that you wouldn't ordinarily make under routine circumstances. It's equivalent to having a near death experience.
My favorite part of the whole film is the gas station sequence. It's like a rebirth for Old Dolio, realizing she's spent so much of her life trapped and in a single moment when the earthquake hits, she feels regret believing she had just died. It's an absurdist comedy to everyone who barely flinches when an earthquake hits, but to Old Dolio it's her awakening. It's awkward and tender as she realizes she just wants to live and embrace every experience that comes her way which includes buying every single snack she can from the gas station convenience store. She's hugging strangers. She's shaking hands. She's speaking her mind. She's begging Melanie not to leave her alone, because now she's becoming her own person. It's such a great tracking shot that apparently, according to Miranda July it took 17 takes to choreograph. Wowza! Playfully idiosyncratic, at times nearly mute in color, the composition of each frame is absorbed in monotony, as it's a world out of whack where everything feels sardonically lopsided. It makes you stop and contemplate life, pressing pause on the ideal system of consumerism to make room for less dependence and more independence. And that's one of Old Dolio's hurdles to embrace a life more of assertive independence, a road we must all travel on at some point in our lives.