Miranda July has been on the indie radar for years. Her directorial debut, Me and You and Everyone We Know is a funny and quite alternative way of looking at contemporary life. It was a critical success and audiences fell in love, winning the Special Jury Prize at Sundance and the Golden Camera at Cannes. Followed up by The Future, another “slice of life” focusing on a seemingly mundane story that alters the course of the protagonist’s life.
It is no surprise that her third feature is still following those threads, showing the lives of the misunderstood and unsung population on the fringes of society. In this particular story, we meet a rather disheveled family as they are in the middle of one of their many money-making schemes. This one involves a silly kind of choreographed dance to avoid being seen by security cameras. A swell introduction to the family we will be spending our time following and all the little idiosyncrasies that define each member.
Evan Rachel Wood plays the central character Old Dolio, the daughter of Robert (Richard Jenkins) and Theresa (Debra Winger). Living every day scrounging for the next petty crime or small-time con. When they aren’t trying to steal mail from neighboring mailboxes at the post office, they are walking the streets looking for spare change in public phones or picking up anything off the street that may contain some forgotten treasure.
Part of the daily routine of this unconventional troop is dodging their temperamental land-lord Stovid (Mark Ivanir), a hilarious and flexible routine of ducking, crouching, and limboing past the gate of his cleaning business where the family is paying to rent out the front few offices. The well-practiced system of removing a certain pink substance is as hilarious as it is depressing. There are many silly and endearing moments while the story is getting set up for a more poignant final act, the road to get there is full of whimsy and surprise.
Jenkins and Winger as the odd-ball parents to Wood are almost perfect. Jenkins is always reliable to bring something to the screen, he makes the most out of every frame he graces. Wood brings frailty and vulnerability to her character that’s downright heartbreaking. Gina Rodriguez injects life into the quirky family with her spirited and flirty personality.
July has crafted such an interesting narrative – while we may not be clued in on all the reasons that the family is living this way, we are given plenty of clues from what we have seen. Old Dolio, who is always dressed in a baggy sweater and loose tracksuit, side-parted hair that has never been cut, and a somber demeanor who never lets anyone get close to her. Physical touch is awkward and shocking, social interactions are non-existent. Even the origin of her name is so impersonal. When the family’s way of life is altered, the comfortable walls that Old Dolio has built around herself as protection from a world that has not shown her any love. Her personal and internal struggle of finding and accepting love brings a surprisingly emotional poignancy that sits with you well after the titles roll.
4 out of 5