A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Kajillionaire is a comedy from writer-director Miranda July that's more quirky than laugh-out-loud funny. It centers on a socially awkward 26-year-old (Evan Rachel Wood) who embarks on a journey of self-discovery after realizing that she's lacking -- and craving -- a loving, nurturing relationship with her parents, who've always treated her like a business partner in their constant thefts and scams. "F--k" is whispered a couple of times, but most of the movie's strong language and sexual content is confined to one scene in which a woman confronts an underwear-clad man who wants to have sex with her. She uses explicit language ("titty-f--k"), but nothing else happens. In entirely different circumstances, two characters share a romantic attraction and kiss. Adults drink socially, and there's some personal tension/arguing, but no actual violence. Gina Rodriguez, Richard Jenkins, and Debra Winger co-star.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In KAJILLIONAIRE, a family of swindlers is in the middle of a con when they meet a young, vivacious stranger (Gina Rodriguez) who's intrigued by their way of life. When Theresa (Debra Winger) and Robert Dyne (Richard Jenkins) welcome Melanie into their fold, treating her like one of their own, their adult daughter, Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood), starts questioning her place.
Is it any good?
Miranda July's film about a family of grifters comes off like a mid-season SNL sketch that doesn't make you laugh and goes on too long. Which is too bad, considering that eccentric characters who put themselves in ridiculous situations are the stuff that many great comedies are made of. Wood misses the mark with her portrayal of Old Dolio, whom her parents named after an unhoused lottery winner in hopes that he'd include them in his will (he doesn't). Her parents, who choose to "skim" through life, are amiable but not cuddly: They've treated their daughter like a business partner since birth. All of their thought energy goes into acquiring money to get by, including living in the office space next to a car wash where they pay reduced rent in exchange for whisking away the suds that bubble over the wall daily. Old Dolio seems irritated by her parents but is completely in their control. Her stiff mannerisms and unnaturally low voice are intended to convey her social awkwardness, but it's misleading. Does she have anxiety? No. Does she have autism spectrum disorder? Hmmm, no. Does she have attachment disorder? Nope. It's just how Wood chooses to play her, and while Wood is typically a thoughtful actress, this character might as well have been constructed by Pauly Shore.
On the other hand, Old Dolio's parents are more familiar. Robert is a paranoid organizer with just enough charm to pull people in. And Theresa's every move, including an unexplained limp, speaks of the difficult life she's lived. This couple has survived by blending in: There's nothing about them that's magnetic, and therefore it's utterly baffling why Melanie, a bright light of happy energy, would be interested in hanging out with them. Even more mysterious is what she sees in Old Dolio. Other details are equally left in the dust. Annapurna Productions is known for presenting films that offer sympathetic looks at women who aren't usually offered sympathy (scamming strippers in Hustlers, the women of Fox News in Bombshell, and the persnickety valedictorian in Booksmart), and Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment is known for making award-winning films -- but not this time. If there is any statue potential here, it's for Winger's memorable performance as the jaded Theresa: In very few words and with a mostly emotionless face, Winger relays a deep cynicism that swims under the surface like a shark. We never see her teeth, but we know she can cause pain.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why people are drawn to conspiracy theories. How does the family's belief in conspiracy theories affect their life?
How is Kajillionaire a coming-of-age film? How does it compare to others in the genre?
What kind of consequences would these characters face in real life for their actions?
What do you think motivates Melanie to engage with the Dynes? Do you think she feels compassion for Old Dolio, or are her actions a result of her attraction?
- In theaters: September 25, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: December 22, 2020
- Cast: Evan Rachel Wood, Gina Rodriguez, Debra Winger
- Director: Miranda July
- Studio: Focus Features
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 106 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some sexual references/language
- Last updated: March 3, 2021
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