Film FestivalsMovie ReviewsSundance 2020: Kajillionaire Review

Keith NoakesFebruary 7, 202075/100
Evan Rachel Wood, Debra Winger, Gina Rodriguez
Miranda July
Miranda July
R (United States)
Running Time
106 minutes
Release Date
Overall Score
Rating Summary
Kajillionaire is a charming little crime comedy whose mostly deadpan sense of humor and arguably despicable characters won't be for everyone but in the end offers just enough to entertain.

This will be one of many reviews during this year’s Sundance Film Festival, to keep up with our latest coverage, click here.

When you thought Parasite was the only film about a family of grifters, here comes Kajillionaire, a film about grifters that reaches nowhere near those same heights (though it shouldn’t have to) and whose story is much different than the former. A film that screams indie, this one plays up the comedic aspects a little more, with a sense of humor that most definitely won’t be for everyone, but this one’s tonal shifts (and attempts at depth) were not quite as seamless. While its characters are arguably despicable (though this was by design) and do arguably despicable things (also by design), the sense of camaraderie between them is commendable in a weird kind of way as this family was clearly not a traditional one and shouldn’t be treated as such. In the end, those who like it will really like it and those who don’t really won’t as most will likely find themselves on either end of the spectrum as there won’t be much middle ground here.

Kajillionaire follows a family, by definition only, of grifters who have survived at that point by pulling various scams, entering countless contests, and stealing from the post office and trying to return items for some quick cash. Mother Theresa (Winger) and father Robert (Richard Jenkins) and their daughter Old Dolio (Wood) were a team of three more than a family, living together while splitting their jobs 3 ways. Things were admittedly dark until they would have their lives turned upside down after the addition of one more member, a curious woman named Melanie (Rodriguez) who had a plan of her own for another major heist. Old Dolio was particularly taken aback as Melanie was shown more affection than she ever got (her parents never really saw her as a daughter). This would lead to what appeared to be jealousy before becoming something more. It was this outside perspective that forced her to take a real look back at her life and her relationship with her parents.

Ultimately, the best part of Kajillionaire was its performances, especially the scene-stealing performance of Wood as Old Dolio. Perhaps the best comparison for that character is a female Napoleon Dynamite but Old Dolio was much more than that. Wood shows considerable range in not only handling the many physical aspects of the character but beyond the physicalness, the soft-spoken voice, and the cold demeanor was a person in immense pain. While she was hilarious, she was also heartbreaking. Meanwhile, Rodriguez plays totally against type with Melanie and it works surprisingly well, showing great chemistry with Wood. Winger and Jenkins were solid as Theresa and Robert.

At the end of the day, Kajillionaire doesn’t reinvent the wheel and won’t be for everyone but those who can handle the characters and the deadpan humor should be treated to a decent time.

*still courtesy of Sundance*

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