by Kyle Arango
This year has been really rough for movies to put it lightly. Not just with the coronavirus dismantling the industry itself, but also with the quality of film we have gotten now that lost films have been pushed back and everything new we see is on Netflix. However, there are certain indies that have come up that are very much worth your time. With Kajillionaire, we have a solid cast and interesting premise going for it which should set up for something good. Is that what we got? I mean sure. Kajillionaire is fine but nothing special and it’s super frustrating that it is just another in a string of movies that don’t fully reach their potential. I’m many ways, that is more irritating than a bad movie.
Kajillionaire follows a woman named Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood) who is apart of a family that does petty crimes and cons in order to make some money and pay their rent. Problem is, they’re really bad at it. They have trained their daughter to do everything she can to make money in the worst ways possible. That plan isn’t working anymore so they need a new solution. They run into Melanie (Gina Rodriguez) on a plane and convince her to help them with a heist. Things don’t go as planned and Melanie turns their lives upside down. This film has an intriguing concept that can make for an interesting tale. The problem is they can’t ever settle on a tone consistent for what they’re going for. They want to make light of a serious situation which is completely possible if done right, I just don’t feel like they quite get there. On one hand you have con artists trying to make a living in the most dishonest way, but then you also have them scooping bubbles from their apartment. It’s just a mix of tones that never quite gels.
The themes of this film I feel are the redeeming quality. It is always fascinating to look at how a child is raised and the result they grow up to be because of that. In this film, Evan Rachel Wood is raised to lie, cheat, and steal. However, she becomes aware of what she is doing and just how ridiculous it becomes. From the parent’s perspective, you wonder how they got to this point in the first place. What led them down the path of crime and how did they get so bad at it? To the point where they are trying to return a massage gift card just so they can have a few bucks to pay rent. They are lovable but despicable people which makes for wonderful character development. The way you are raised drastically impacts you for the rest of your life and this film explores that to a solid degree.
As far as the performances go, it’s a mix of positive and negative. I know Evan Rachel Wood is a terrific actress who can do almost anything, I just hated her in this movie. Her character is this awkward introvert who shows her personality through her wardrobe and those two aspects conflict with one another. So while I understand there’s a lot of personality there, I never feel it. On the complete opposite end, I thought Gina Rodriguez was wonderful in this film. She brings an energy halfway through that this movie was severely lacking and immediately grabs your attention. Had it not been for her, this film might’ve been a wash. As always, Richard Jenkins is just a wonderful precsense onscreen. Here it’s as if your goofy uncle got into theft and when he’s caught had that “aw shucks” attitude. Might be the most reliable role player out there.
At the end of it all, Kajillionaire is just another film that doesn’t make full use of its materials and falls by the wayside. There are redeemable qualities here, but not enough to keep me from forgetting this film. It does nothing special that I haven’t seen in other films and as a result, I won’t remember seeing it in about a week, which is a shame