Quick Reviews: 'Kajillionaire', 'She Dies Tomorrow' | Evan Rachel Wood, Gina Rodriguez, Trippy Drama
Sometimes when heading towards your first taste of a certain filmmaker's filmography it's good to know that there really isn't an ''easy'' entry available, then you can go in without expectations and just take in exactly what you are given. That can be your experience with Miranda July's latest, Kajillionaire, as it was mine too.
Its main character Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood) is a 26-year-old woman living with her swindler parents (Richard Jenkins as Robert, Debra Winger as Theresa) in a crummy office space and hustling with them for money. In their latest scam which takes them to a flight to New York City, another young woman in Melanie (Gina Rodriguez) eventually joins them as she also has some new ideas. July most certainly has a style which isn't easy to get used to but the unique approach is what keeps things constantly moving and changing, to a point where you don't mind if not all potential ends up on pages.
The movie throws many things into the air and does juggle some of them until the very end. Main struggle and Old Dolio's character development revolves around the way that the parents aren't the nurturing kind, instead creating excuses to keep her involved in the schemes they get up to and so, Old Dolio has trouble socialising properly. How she is portrayed and conceptualised seems like a very strong filmmaker's choice made by July, it's quirky and a bit sad all in one. The costumes, colour palette and shaky, low voice of Wood are very well realised but they're also consistent throughout the film so even if the antics are a bit crazy, there is some familiarity you can return to. Wood and Rodriguez also get the chemistry right in the beginning for their characters, that's why you are invested enough to see where it all takes them.
I was actually quite happy to see that Kajillionaire never falls far from its aesthetic, with these kind of films you often see some wacky comedy or trippy elements that break the illusion, not in this case however. Some things do get lost in the atmosphere too when July is juggling with Old Dolio and Melanie. The earthquakes are kind of a weak motif because they do nothing, the parents ultimate motivations as well as relationship with their daughter gets explored hurriedly and the story never really reaches the potential.
There are actually a few times even when you feel like the film is gonna take a wild turn but then an average conversation between two characters happens and they talk through the plot. The ending is also a downer, not only because of the terribly unfitting needle drop but also because it's the most mundane and boring part of the film. If you prepare everything to be weird, go all out and make everything weird.
Smileys: Originality, tone
Everything to do with those bubbles is just pure nightmare fuel for some reason.
SHE DIES TOMORROW
For a while I thought to be writing a full review about director Amy Seimetz's She Dies Tomorrow but I don’t necessarily have intricate thoughts about it, to be fair. The film really gets a boost from the timing of the release as there’s an infection going on which causes the infected to believe they’re going to die next day. Those people feel isolated and it is not helped by the enormous amount of anxiety they’re experiencing. It all turns out to be rather haunting and that tone really saves the movie.
Sure, the premise is interesting and it’s coloured and written well for a (very) low budget feature but the sense of dismay is the driving factor. That’s why it is a film that I like but I don’t enjoy, that is also the reason for not really recommending it for everyone. It will speak to a very specific audience, others will feel confused by it.
The premise isn’t explored thoroughly enough in the whole 85 minutes and the moments where we follow Jane (Jane Adams) instead of Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) really make it drag at times. Those moments make you think whether this would play better as a 30-40 minute short film than as a feature.
Smileys: Colouring, tone, premise
Frowneys: Pacing, story