Evan Rachel Wood, Debra Winger, Gina Rodriguez, Richard Jenkins
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…improves as it starts to play down the quirkiness and turn up the emotional heft… And there’s no denying its originality.
This film is about as strange as one can get whilst still remaining within the bounds of the possible (if sometimes wildly improbable). The basic premise is that a family – Theresa (Debra Winger), Robert (Richard Jenkins) and their twenty-something daughter Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood) – works as a criminal trio pulling all manner of vile and ruthless scams, some of which rely on exploiting people’s generosity or vulnerability. Especially elderly people.
Old Dolio – and yes, that is the character’s real name – seems awkwardly uncomfortable and possibly traumatised about it all, as well you might, but the whole situation is ‘played’ in a way that hovers enigmatically between comedy and tragedy. Even when the action is plausible, the protagonists’ wall-to-wall awkwardness and nervousness undercuts it. And then there is Robert’s obsession with earthquakes… and the virtually instantaneous ‘self-adoption’ into the group of Melanie (Gina Rodriguez), a Puerto Rican woman they happen to meet on a flight to New York City.
Kajillionaire improves as it starts to play down the quirkiness and turn up the emotional heft, but it’s far from being an unqualified success. Its very ambition makes it risk noble failure, some of the changes in tone and direction are distancing and the ending is far too neatly contrived. But, all that said, it definitely has a couple of quite extraordinary and memorable moments. (One is affectingly poignant and the other has a sort of desperate profundity, but Mum’s the word about both of them.) And there’s no denying its originality.