(director/writer: Miranda July; cinematographer: Sebastian Winterø; editor: Jennifer Vecchiarello; music: Emile Mosseri; cast: Evan Rachel Wood (Old Dolio), Gina Rodriguez (Melanie), Debra Winger (Theresa), Richard Jenkins (Robert Dynes), Mark Ivanir (Stovik), Madeleine Coghlan (Another Teenage Girl), Steve Park (Another Father), Challen Cates (Med Spa Manager), Patricia Belcher (Althea), Kim Estes (Victor), Da’vine Joy Randolph (Jenny), Rachel Redleaf (Kelli); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Youree Henley; Annapurna Pictures; 2020)
“When the laughs stop, the film’s purpose comes to light and a real family drama comes into play.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Writer-director Miranda July’s (“Me and You and Everyone We Know”), her first film since her enjoyable whimsical 2011 The Future, is also a weird one. It’s a dark comedy of a family of scammers trying to survive as a dysfunctional family and not adjust to a regular work life like most others. The family reside in LA without a car or a home. They have taken up residence in an unused office space in an abandoned warehouse where they have cheaply rented from the owner of the next door bubble factory an unused office and endure at times with pink foam seeping through the ceilings and floor openings into their living space. They owe rent not paid for months and are about to be evicted, so they use contorted movements to sneak into the office without being seen. The family in question is the Dynes family. Robert (Richard Jenkins) and his wife Theresa (Debra Winger) are con artists who have trained their withdrawn, tomboy 26-year-old daughter, Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood), to be a scammer like them. Old Dolio was named for a lottery-winning homeless man, who they hoped would be touched by the gesture and lay some of the winnings on them (but received nothing). We soon see them in action robbing a post office of packages ready to be delivered.
A plot develops when the family meets on a flight coming back from NYC the spirited, young Melanie (Gina Rodriguez). They won the trip in an internet game and have gone on it only to pull off an airline-insurance swindle by claiming their luggage is missing).
Melanie‘s an optician selling bifocals to the aged, who is looking for thrills for her dull life when she meets the Dynes. The family find her to be perfect as another hustler to join them. The two young women become good friends and go to a supermarket, as Old Dolio points out the aisles where it’s easy to shoplift because of a security-camera blind spot. Melanie meanwhile comes up with a scheme to dupe her elderly customers out of the antiques in their home. On one occasion the crime family has no trouble sneaking into the home of a dying lonely old man and taking up residence there to act like a “normal” family until they can find where he keeps his money.
Eventually we get around to seeing the filmmaker’s real intent. The emotional consequences for the stunted daughter, who isn’t even given a decent name or chance to find her own in path in life, starts to emerge thanks to making a connection with her new friend. By making a connection with Michelle she realizes how much she pines for real love and not to be used as a crime partner but be part of a real family. When the laughs stop, the film’s purpose comes to light and a real family drama comes into play as Old Dolio will like most kids rebel against such domineering parents.
REVIEWED ON 10/1/2020 GRADE: B