Who doesn’t love a good old mean-spirited scam? Whether it’s Hustle, Hustlers, The Hustle, American Hustle or just someone up the road telling you about how Mrs Green at Number 19 got mugged off by a guy pretending to sell micro pigs: stories about lies, cons and heists (even mediocre ones) are exactly the kind of shit every single human on the planet lives for. How else would you explain four Ocean’s movies?
That’s why it’s so shocking that Miranda July’s new film – a comedy about a family of con-artists – is so, so boring. You enter her world expecting tension-laced stories of scheming and deceit to screech and cackle about. Then you’re delivered a painfully slow family drama where idiosyncrasy trumps emotion and themes of isolation and family dysfunction get lost in the zaniness.
At the heart of the story is Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood), an Avril Lavigne-looking 26-year-old whose oddball parents have never shown her affection, only the tools of the conning trade. (She can crack a supermarket’s CCTV system in minutes, but she’s never had a hug from her mum.) The trio scramble to pay the rent via scams: stealing from storage units, falsifying lost baggage. Then two things happen. First, Old Dolio stumbles into a parenting class where she learns about the love your mum and dad are actually supposed to give you. Then the trio meet the bubbly Melanie (Gina Rodriguez) on a flight to New York, invite her to start heisting with them and suddenly Old Dolio is breaking out of the cage her parents have made for her.
And thank god for Melanie. Played by Jane the Virgin’s Rodriguez, she is the only injection of realness and vibrancy in a film that’s hampered by its own obsession with being weird. Rachel Wood spends most of it hiding behind a king-sized bedsheet of mousy hair, the family live in an office block where pink foam rolls down the walls at set intervals and there’s a storyline about earth tremors that’s not even worth grappling with. Kajillionaire takes a heartbreaking story – a child of abuse trying to escape her sociopathic parents – and bloats it so full of Little Miss Sunshine kook that any emotional sharpness is left soft and doughy. That is until the last ten minutes when you’re finally provided with the good heist you were after. But by that point, who cares really?
Out now in UK cinemas