Parenting, if not done right, can spoil a child’s future. Right parenting though, is a disputatious statement. For strict parents, it is to integrate a code of conduct in their children’s lives, while others might believe in a totally different approach. However, there is an exceptional set of parents, who aren’t much bothered about their kids and their Parenting is taken for granted attitude. For them, their children are an instrument they use for their own means. Kajillionaire showcases one such mother and father who trains their daughter to steal at every turn.
Written and Directed by Miranda July, Kajillionaire is a simple tale in a complex attire. Miranda has always approached her storytelling process, with subtle metaphors and symbolism that are funny above and psychological in its depth. This film is no different, and we get to see a lot of such experimental visualizations that confuses viewers for a bit, but when seen from a larger viewpoint, everything seems perfectly arranged.
Note – Kajillionaire means ‘To have Immense Wealth.’
The film begins with a girl standing at the bus stop. As soon as the bus leaves, the girl flexibly and comically runs towards a mail post office, dodging the CCTV camera at the front gate. Inside, she steals a packet from another person’s mailbox and sneaks out. The packet is opened by two older people, Theresa (Debra Winger) and Robert (Richard Jenkins) who are this girl’s parents. She is named Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood).
Old Dolio, as odd the name is, sets the theme of the film which is a bit odd in itself. Dolio’s Theresa and Robert, have trained her 26-year-old daughter to steal and made her a con artist like themselves. The family lives in a rented office space, part of a bubble chemical factory. Space is spoiled by constant bubble leaks, which happen at regular intervals, and the family has to clean it instantly. Their weird urgency to leave all work outside and reach the space is persistently hilarious.
Theresa and Robert are failing to pay outstanding rent and thus they often sneak away from the landlord, who is the owner of the chemical factory too. On an unfortunate day, the landlord catches them and asks them to vacate if they don’t finish the debts in two weeks. To pay off the rent, Old Dolio coins a heist, to grab travel insurance from the airlines. The family plan to make a visit to New York and misplace their luggage on their return journey.
The plan was going without error until Old Dolio learned that travel insurance on lost luggage could take weeks to sanction. But the major conflict arises when a new girl, Melanie (Gina Rodriguez), her parents’ befriends on their journey back, creates a rift between Old Dolio and her parents. She starts feeling jealous, as Theresa and Robert invite Melina to be a part of a newly coined heist. Friction between Melina and Old Dolio is conflicted in the story and Kajillionaire ends beautifully as these two individuals sort out the ironies of their own life.
Miranda July has done a marvellous job putting all the subtle metaphors and ironies in the screenplay that she has also portrayed visually. Some of these eerie elements include constant earthquakes that characters feel throughout the film. Another funny and prominent element is the leakage in Old Dolio’s rented office cum living space. These peculiar elements underline the bitterness of urban life. However, a much more individualistic element in her narrative is the way she has designed the characters of the film.
Richard and Theresa, Old Dolio’s parents are completely plain and cold-blooded sometimes, that is even reflected in their gestures and choice of words. They are an accurate portrayal of how city life parents are, unbothered about their child and their ambitions. They only influence their offspring to provide for their parents’ needs and motives, like Richard and Theresa, who are just concerned about their own desires. They didn’t even put a thought in naming their daughter and gave a horrified tag to her, called Old Dolio.
Old Dolio, on the other hand, has been carved out of perfection. A really noticeable trait in her character is her flexibility. It is observed not only in her actions and gestures but also her behaviour which is so flexible that could easily be influenced. She is 26 years old in the film, but her innocence seems intact like she hasn’t been through a lot of hardships in her life, or maybe her parents have protected her well from the outer world. Miranda July has given her character traits that are traceable both externally and internally, which is praiseworthy. When Old Dolio visits a baby care seminar, in return for a few bucks, she is heavily influenced by a mother-child affection that she had never experienced in her life. She even questions Theresa about it, which she calls off coldly. This constant theme of children being ugly to their parents and parents taking parenting for granted is explored throughout, through very heavy psychological scenes that might need an intellectually evolved audience.
When Miranda, an overly extrovert and flashy girl enters Old Dolio’s life. She is sceptical about her, as the attention is taken away from her. Old Dolio wants to make her parents happy, but they are happy with Miranda and not her. Looking at Miranda, Old Dolio understands a lack of affection and love in her own life, through her parents which leads her to question them. Through Miranda, Old Dolio learns that there is more to life than just paying rent and coining heists. Old Dolio, who was turning cold-blooded like her mother, is kindled with a ray of love through Miranda, that she cherishes a lot. Such incidents motivate Old Dolio to open up a bit and observe her own thoughts, looking at her own identity in life, other than her parents. The puppetry string is broken and she is free to fly.
Though these are all the decoded thoughts of the film Kajillionaire, Miranda July has explored each of it in a complex narrative. There is much more to the film than said above and that is what makes the film a really beautiful piece of art.
Anyone who likes to engross themselves in ticky knotty narratives and want to go beyond some simple storytelling, Kajillionaire is a must-watch for them. Though it is not everyone’s cup of tea and some may find it absurd, so don’t push yourselves much, because the visualization of the tale is really experimental.
Kajillionaire is available for Video on Demand.
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