2020, R, 106 min. Directed by Miranda July. Starring Evan Rachel Wood, Richard Jenkins, Debra Winger, Gina Rodriguez, Mark Ivanir.

REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., Sept. 25, 2020

The complex nature of human relationships has been a central current in the works of Miranda July: specifically, her interest in mapping trajectories of often lonely and broken people stumbling around a world they don’t understand, and a world that definitely does not understand them. And while there is no shortage in the “oddballs find each other” subgenre, July imbues her stories with compassion and grace. Once again, she invites us into her wonderfully peculiar worldview with her new feature, her first since 2011’s underrated The Future.

“Most people want to be kajillionaires,” scoffs Robert (Jenkins), the paterfamilias of the Dyne family, as he rails against the bourgeois sheep of modern society. He and his wife Theresa (Winger) have chosen a different path, scraping by hand-to-mouth working petty scams and grifts of the filching-P.O.-boxes and entering-multiple-names-in-internet-giveaways variety. They have also created a daughter (Wood) whose life is conscripted to aid in these con game endeavors. In the eyes of her parents, Old Dolio is not seen as their daughter, but as a third partner, with everything pragmatically split three ways between them. They live in an unused L.A. office space, barren cubicles and all, rented from the owner of a Bubble factory next door. Like clockwork every day (three times on Wednesday), a leak causes foam to ooze down the walls, requiring them to endlessly contain it from overflowing. Months overdue on rent, and winning a trip to New York City from one of their scams, Old Dolio hatches a lost luggage insurance scam to pay the debt. On the plane ride back from their brief (a few hours) jaunt to the Big Apple, Robert meets Melanie (Rodriguez), a boisterous free spirit, who he convinces to help with the scam. Melanie has an idea for a scheme which involves duping the elderly clientele of the eyeglass shop she works at out of antiques around their home. Melanie’s presence in the Dyne family’s life upsets an already tenuous ecosystem.

With Old Dolio, July and Wood have created an indelible character: a gruff-speaking wildling with no concept of how to deal with her “tender feelings,” but whose behavioral conditioning makes her keenly aware that there is something missing. Lacking any experience with love or affection, she is a tightly wound coil, and Melanie’s deprogramming lays bare the realization that the biggest scam has been the one perpetrated by her parents on her. The way July is able to juggle both the slyly cruel circumstances and the genuinely heartfelt transformation makes this her best work yet: a fractured mirror fable broken into perfect pieces.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Miranda July Films
The Future
As an unsparing portrait of disaffection among the small-paycheck, faux-creative class, Miranda July's film is on the mark but her performance grates nevertheless.

Kimberley Jones, Aug. 12, 2011

Me and You and Everyone We Know
Performance artist Miranda July's feature-length debut is packed with arresting images, moments, and single lines of dialogue – enough to earn the film top awards at Sundance and Cannes.

Kimberley Jones, July 15, 2005

More by Josh Kupecki
She Is Conann
Barbaric vision of how aging means eating your own youth.

Feb. 2, 2024

The Zone of Interest
Jonathan Glazer's Holocaust drama is powerfully distancing

Jan. 12, 2024


Kajillionaire, Miranda July, Evan Rachel Wood, Richard Jenkins, Debra Winger, Gina Rodriguez, Mark Ivanir

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle