Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood) leads an unusual life. Along with her con artist parents Robert (Richard Jenkins) and Theresa (Debra Winger), she swindles and steals at every turn. Then they meet a young woman named Melanie (Gina Rodriguez), who expresses enthusiasm in joining their schemes – “my favourite movies are the ‘Ocean’s 11’ movies” – and so the family’s lives change forever.
There’s a strong indie vibe from ‘Kajillionaire’, something akin to ‘Little Miss Sunshine’. The family this movie follows though, the Dynes, is even more dysfunctional, and don’t expect the emotional catharsis of the Toni Collette starrer or you may be left feeling a bit cold.
Evan Rachel Wood, who’s ranked up an impressive stream of credits outside ‘Westworld’, which she would be most renowned for, is as brilliant as ever. Her character Old Dolio is deeply sympathetic, try-hard and desperate to impress and satisfy her parents. She’s a soulful individual and strained from her parents’ way of living, her inner pain manifesting in physical back ache. Ultimately, she is a needy child trapped in a twenty-something body. She has also inherited her parents’ surreal philosophies about life at the end of the world. She’s just this adorable little weirdo you want to take care of, which is just what happens with Melanie.
Debra Winger and Richard Jenkins are great as the sneaky, manipulative mum and dad. Their meanness particularly comes through as we witness them taking advantage of elderly individuals. Gina Rodriguez’ Melanie is repulsed by this and starts to recognise that Old Dolio is the real treasure in this family. The two women come to make a deal, and you become intrigued as to where this is going next. The plot is interesting, and their scenes finally introduce some warmth, for the sad truth is, the Dynes are never quite a family, even in the sequences where they make pretences to be.
Audiences will find ‘Kajillionaire’ to be a tender and soulful indie outing, though perhaps a little underwhelming and uneventful. Even if you’re not as taken as you’d hoped, the cast is great, most notably Evan Rachel Wood, and there’s no denying the depth of feeling writer-director Miranda July has infused her movie with.
'Kajillionaire' opens in cinemas across Northern Ireland from Friday, October 9.