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Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr Miranda July
prd Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Youree Henley
with Evan Rachel Wood, Gina Rodriguez, Debra Winger, Richard Jenkins, Mark Ivanir, Patricia Belcher, Diana Maria Riva, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Rachel Redleaf, Ian Casselberry, Ben Konigsberg, Susan Berger
release US 25.Sep.20,
20/US Focus 1h44
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
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Another absurdly offbeat comedy from Miranda July, this wilfully wacky movie centres on a family of dysfunctional crooks who pull one tiny hustle after another. The plot defiantly refuses to travel in expected directions. And amid the nuttiness, this becomes a remarkably sensitive coming-of-age for a 26-year-old who is only just beginning to understand who she might actually be. This is a bold, bonkers movie with a warm, beating heart.
In Los Angeles, Old Dolio (Wood) has been raised running scams with her con-artist parents Theresa and Robert (Winger and Jenkins), based in a home-office next to a leaky bubble factory. When Old Dolio wins three plane tickets to New York, they fly there and back only so they can make a lost-luggage claim. On the flight, they meet the chatty Melanie (Rodriguez), and Old Dolio isn't so sure about letting her into their crew. Especially when she proposes a major new heist. Then as alliances shift, Old Dolio begins to question her place here.
With her low-key directing style, July adds witty perspective in the way the film is shot and edited, shifting from loose comedy into more introspective drama without ever losing the brittle, surreal sense of humour. One running joke involves a series of random objects that provide some sort of value, including a massage and a hot tub. And there are also a number of earthquakes. Meanwhile, Old Dolio is discovering things about being human that she's never imagined.
Enveloped in a mane of hair, Wood finds surprising layers in this befuddled young woman who clearly has never had a proper education, merely taught to nick anything that's not nailed down. Her awakening doesn't follow the usual paths, and is exhilarating to watch. Rodriguez provides her own comical spark as a relatively normal person in this awkwardly goofy team. She and Wood also find an unexpected connection, including a spark of romance. And Jenkins and Winger deliver hilariously deadpan turns as unapologetic grifters who are experts at passive aggression.
This is a clever exploration of the true American dream: becoming crazily wealthy without doing any work. And as the narrative evolves, Old Dolio begins to question what her parents have taught her, and whether anything they've ever done hasn't been a con. Emile Mosseri's inventive score keeps up with her odyssey, adding to the gently shifting tone, building to an expressive moment of dance physicality and a series of final scenes that are both funny and sweet.
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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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