Sep 24, 2020

A dysfunctional but dear grifter family invites a stranger to their big heist. Yes. change happens.


Grade: B

Director: Miranda July (The Future)

Screenplay: July

Cast: Evan Rachel Wood (Across the Universe), Debra Winger (Terms of Endearment)

Runtime: 1h 46m

Rating: R

By: John DeSando

When Anjelica Huston and John Cusack pull off their grifts in the 1990 The Grifters, a certain elegance pervades. When Debra Winger (Theresa) and Richard Jenkins (Robert) also grift in the current Kajillionaire, it’s not smooth nor high stakes nor long term. The Kaj family is a better example of the dysfunctional family, relatively speaking.

Not that they aren’t charming. Daughter Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood) is eccentric like her parents though more introverted if that were possible. When outsider Melanie (Gina Rodriquez) joins the three for the next ‘big” heist, she changes things, especially Old Dolio.

As could be expected, Old has issues like feeling unloved or unwanted by her parents as she looks especially to mother for the warmth Theresa could never give. When Old concocts a plan to get $1500 back rent from a false lost luggage claim, things don’t go as planned, and she ends up in the family dog house.

But then, even the con where they try to cash in a ticket for a massage, turns out hilariously bad. No grift is too small for failure.

Melanie helps them balance their lives with happiness even though she adds nothing financially (“How is this person an asset?” asks Old). She is best helping the family regularly scoop up the pink bubbles seeping through the wall because they rent in a strange Bubble factory, headed by an amusingly off-kilter Stovik (Mark Ivanir). He can’t stop crying, though not enough to keep him from demanding the back-pay rent. Quirky is the cliché, and it is spot on here.

The ending is soft by heist or dysfunction standards, but it does illustrate that even in a wacked-out family, if love abides, they may turn out well. However, they still need to hock valueless objects to live daily.

Although they may disparage kajillionaires, a little bit of economic stability would be nice. Kajillionaires they will never be.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at