Review: “Kajillionaire” fails to live up to its potential


Courtesy of Focus Features

Sofia Mongillo

Shown to the world for the first time at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, writer and director Miranda July’s latest film “Kajillionaire” tells the unconventional story of Old Dolio, a 26-year-old woman who knows only the toxic relationship she was raised in by her thieving parents. Released in theaters on Sept. 25, 2020, the comedy-drama focuses on her discovery of self-worth despite her harsh upbringing.

Evan Rachel Wood plays Old Dolio, who lives with her parents Robert and Theresa Dyne, played by Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger. Living in an office space connected to a soap factory, the trio spends their days finding ways to scam others in order to continue fueling their odd lifestyle. In the midst of one of their elaborate schemes, they come across a young woman named Melanie, played by “Jane the Virgin” star Gina Rodriguez. They integrate her into their group due to her interest in their way of life. Old Dolio eventually finds herself a love interest, whose bright personality adds some humor to the dull tone of her life.

While “Kajillionaire” sets up a promising plot, it comes off as a boring, dragged-out story that sparks minimal emotion for those watching it. Old Dolio is shown throughout the course of the movie as an introverted, lost girl who does not know the first thing about affection. While the two-time Golden Globe Award nominee Wood does an impressive job at portraying the unique character, it feels as though she never really reaches her full potential, and the plot fails to develop her as a relatable and real individual.

Although Old Dolio is the main character, her lack of lines and significant scenes cause her to come off as someone who was written into the script but does not contribute much to the overall plot of the narrative. This is more than disappointing because of her atypical upbringing, and the possibilities in her character development that could come from the childhood trauma she endured. Despite the ample room for growth given to her in the plot, Old Dolio underwhelms viewers as someone who is not very entertaining in the slightest.

Old Dolio’s parents also do not offer much to a story that is based largely around them and their daughter. Their personas seem to be multidimensional as well as their relationship with Old Dolio. However, all that is revealed is their surface-level traits through the cold way they treat her.

While the movie only runs for nearly two hours, unimportant scenes take up space and make it seem like the runtime is several hours longer than it really is. This slow pace along with the colorless storyline is likely to cause yawns in the audience, regardless of the unorthodox nature of the film. Rather than following the traditional plot structure followed in most narratives, “Kajillionaire” stays in the safe zone without taking many creative risks, and it shows.

Despite the lack of spark the film brings to theaters, it is impossible not to recognize the contribution that Old Dolio and Melanie’s budding romance adds to the representation of LGBTQ+ characters in the movie industry. After watching a lot of heterosexual romance stories on screen time and time again, it is refreshing to witness two individuals of the same gender fall in love in a very atypical but beautiful way. It might not be the most fulfilling movie, but “Kajillionaire” does show a story about real and damaging lives of poverty, that are uplifted by a little bit of romance.

To watch “Kajillionaire” on demand, click here.

Illustration by Ariel Landry
Illustration by Ariel Landry