Evan Rachel Wood and Gina Rodriguez excel in Kajillionaire, an offbeat film that deserves a wide audience – here’s our review of the movie.

Writer/director Miranda July feels like one of cinema’s well-kept secrets. She’s won acclaim for films such as Me And You And Everyone We Know and The Future, but very much on the independent circuit. Yet one of the by-products of the circumstances cinema finds itself in is movies that otherwise would have had a limited outing are now getting far wider releases than expected. July’s new film, Kajillionaire, included.

On the surface, it looks pretty mainstream fare. A family – Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger as parents Robert and Theresa, with Evan Rachel Wood as their daughter, Old Dolio – are tackling very small heists as they try to keep on top of the rent. The place they’re renting is hardly what you’d call home (they have to be home at certain times of the day to stop too much foam leaking through the walls from next door), and they’re always on the lookout for the next moneymaker.

Well, the parents are at least. For Old Dolio, she lives a subdued life, going along with whatever she’s told to do, having had any self worth drained out of her by being reduced to a component part in an assortment of scams. Yet one of the jobs her parents get her to do starts to change things. She finds herself attending a planned parenting class on behalf of someone else (to earn a few bucks), and her path – as well as that of the film – slowly begins to change.

July’s a smart writer, and her film toys with mainstream for a little while, but gets less and less predictable as it progresses. In particular, a scam that involves a flight across America – a long way to go for such little financial reward – brings Gina Rodriguez’s Melanie into the story. From that point onwards, trying to second guess the film is a fool’s errand. What emerges is a genuinely surprising tale, with a memorable final act.

July’s also a strong director, and what she affords her cast is the space to put across some excellent work. Jenkins and Winger are on terrific form for a start, yet it’s the flat-out superb Evan Rachel Wood and Gina Rodriguez who deserve particular plaudits.

The film takes some turns it’s fair to say, and not all of its audience will go along with them. But it’s an individual, interesting piece of work. Funny at times, heartbreaking in others, it should at the very least have more people seeking out July’s back catalogue.

[4Stars]

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