Kajillionaire Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Kajillionaire written and directed by Miranda July, is a pretty obscure film about trauma, family dysfunction and self discovery, that never reaches its full potential. It is an extremely slow film, that can be confusing at times because of the constant con jobs. It felt like a downward spiral, for all of those characters, especially for Old Dolio, played by Evan Rachel Wood.

It does have something to say about the class system in America and how the economy functions. Low income families need to find other avenues, in order to survive and July shows that, in the quirkiest way possible. It is a bland film that doesn’t know what it’s supposed to be. The family dynamic was interesting to study, but their connection with each other, became very irritating. The choices that were made, did not make any sense either, which was incredibly frustrating to sit through.

Courtesy of Focus Features
(left) Debra Winger, Evan Rachel Wood and Richard Jenkins

Thankfully halfway through the film Melanie, played by Gina Rodriguez breathed some life into Evan Rachel Wood’s dead character, whose backstory was interesting and emotional but it was never fully explored. There was so much to unpack with Old Dolio and I wish the story focused on her, more than the con job. The growing tension between Old Dolio and Melanie, was the saving grace in this piece, it’s the only thing that kept me interested until the end of the film.

It is a film that does not really have a clear journey, it feels disjointed and spaced out because of Old Dolio’s characterization. The quirkiness was too much and it felt like Evan Rachel Wood was overacting at times, in order to achieve maximum quirkiness. I didn’t find it humorous at all and some moments made me cringe because of how awkward it was. I understood that there was past trauma and that they tried to explain it but it wasn’t executed properly.

Kajillionaire had some great camerawork and unique emotional moments but lost itself in the quirkiness of Old Dolio. It’s an obscure film, that will pull at the heartstrings at key moments, but will lose you for the majority of the runtime. It is the opposite of a fast paced con job, with odd characters and a wild card coming in halfway through.

Palm Springs Review

By: Amanda Guarragi 

Palm Springs had its world premiere at Sundance earlier this year and it instantly created buzz in the film community. It is directed by Max Barbakow, written by Andy Siara and it is a Lonely Island Classic picture. The film brings together two characters, Nyles (Andy Samberg) and Sarah (Cristin Milioti) who have questioned their own existence and the decisions they have made. When they meet at Sarah’s sister, Tala’s (Camila Mendes) wedding, the night takes them on an interesting journey, which leads them to a cave and changes everything.

The film is unique to the time loop subgenre that has developed over the years. It has a refreshing structure and the editing is a huge part of it. The reason why this film is different to the genre is because there are more people involved in the time loop storyline. As we have seen in the past, majority of the time, it is only one character processing the idea of reliving the same day, over and over again. In this comedy, it has Nyles informing Sarah, how to approach the time loop in very humorous ways. There is a nice surprise with the addition of Roy (J.K. Simmons) to add an origin story for Nyles and his time loop journey.

It has a nice mixture of comedic moments and realistic discussions about life, which I really appreciated. The perception of loneliness, is always something that should be explored and how life can sometimes seem meaningless, if you do not have someone to share it with. That is why placing the central event, as a wedding day, in this film was extremely beneficial because of the weight it holds on everyone’s lives. It is very well crafted because they address so many different ideas of love and relationships.

Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti had excellent chemistry and solid comedic timing. They bounced off of each other extremely well and you could feel the freedom they had with these roles. The pacing was really strong because of how the story builds. Instead of just reliving the same day, in the same location, Barbakow and Siara explored different moments in the day and had them react differently to new information. The way they slowly revealed different aspects of their lives, was really well done and continuously surprised me.

Palm Springs adds so much depth to the time loop subgenre and it is a wonderful edition to The Lonely Island production library. It is probably one of the most charming films I have seen in a while and it will capture your heart. It is also constructed to always keep you on your toes because even though you are stuck in a time loop, life still comes at you fast and you have to adapt to every situation in the best way you can.

The Assistant Review

By: Amanda Guarragi 

The Assistant written and directed by Kitty Green is a slow burn film that shows a day in the life of a young girl working an entry level job. There is this constant anxiety and doubt from Jane (Julia Garner), while she attempts to work hard and prove herself in the workplace. It shows the mental/emotional abuse that young professionals endure when starting out in the industry and how troubling it could be to make certain decisions that could affect your position in the company.

Kitty Green wrote a simple script that showed a realistic work day from the perspective of an assistant. The pacing was very well done and it also showed how tedious and time consuming certain tasks were. It showed how organized everything had to be and how to conduct yourself in the workplace. When does your voice actually matter? This film brought me back to my office days and made me nervous all over again. It was like it struck a chord inside me and somehow made all of those emotional memories come to the forefront. As I was watching this, all of my worst number one hits, were flipping through my mind and bringing the same doubtful sensation that I remember feeling in those moments. I remember being nervous doing any work that was given to me, any phone calls I had to make or even emails I had to send, those moments made me doubt myself because I was afraid I would make a mistake.

Everyone wants to prove themselves in any industry and sometimes our perceptions are skewed, when it comes to stepping up that corporate ladder. The verbal abuse Jane receives from her boss on two separate occasions, was not normal workplace behaviour. She then received a rather unexpected email from her boss saying, “I’m hard on you because I’m going to make you great.” which changes Jane’s outlook entirely. At the end of the day, people need reassurance even if things seem bleak and they feel like everything is going wrong. It is also important to note that Jane takes this particular comment as a positive, when it’s actually really damaging to her self esteem and she doesn’t realize it.

The climax of this film was probably one of my favourite conversations on screen and Garner showed so much emotion when Jane decided to speak to her HR representative. This exchange was the most important moment in the film because it showed two different perspectives on how to navigate the industry in one conversation. As someone who is trying to break in and become a producer, doing the right thing and making a claim that could make or break your current status is not something that would be advised. However, Jane was simply trying to do the right thing by protecting her fellow woman, but in this case her job was on the line, if she attempted to file the complaint. That scene balanced morals and ambition in a candid way that does put both sides into perspective. Whether it is right or wrong, it is up to the viewer to decide.

The Assistant is very subtle in what it was trying to say but also made many valid points by showing them through the perspective of an assistant. The assistant hears everything and knows so much about everyone in the office, but they are never to speak of it at all. The ending of this film is well done because it showed Jane finally taking a moment for herself and remembering what was truly important. Hopefully when people watch this film, they can understand how difficult it is for anyone starting out and show them a bit of grace.