Tag Archives: Debra Winger

Mr. Lonely


by Hope Madden

Can a film be absurd without really being cynical? That might be the miracle of Miranda July, who mixes heartbreak and humor like no one else.

Fifteen years since her groundbreaking Me and You and Everyone We Know and nine years since The Future, the writer/director returns to the screen with a film every bit as ambitious but perhaps more contained and intimate.

In Kajillionaire, a miraculous Evan Rachel Wood is Old Dolio Dyne, 26-year-old woman-child who knows no existence other than that of the low-rent cons she runs day in, day out with her disheveled but wily parents (Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger).

Like Hirokazu Koreeda’s delicate 2018 film Shoplifters and Bong Joon Ho’s 2019 masterpiece Parasite, Kajillionaire disregards the idea of the glamorous con and settles fully into the concept of scam as a daily grind. And, like Koreeda and Ho, July uses this workaday world to examine family. Although July’s vision is more decidedly comedic and highly stylized, she hits the same notes.

The Dynes make their home in an abandoned office space that shares a wall with a car wash. Every day—twice on Wednesdays—pink bubbles descend that wall and it’s up to the Dynes to collect, discard, and dry, lest the foundation of the building become besot with dampness and mold. The precision clockwork (their digital watches are timed to go off) and the pink ooze become ideal identifiers of Old Dolio’s rigid yet surreal existence.

Things get unpredictable when Mom and Dad take a shine to Melanie (an effervescent Gina Rodriguez). She loves their oddball qualities and wants to join the team, but Old Dolio is immediately put off by the disruption, and more than that, by her parents’ doting affection for Melanie.

July is a sharp, witty and incisive filmmaker, but Kajillionaire benefits more from the performances than any of her other films. Wood is like an alien visiting human life, then imitating and observing it, and the performance is oddly heartbreaking.

Jenkins and Winger are reliably magnificent, and Rodriguez’s bright charm is the needed light in an otherwise gloomy tale.

The film hits July’s sweet spot: gawky introverts struggling to find, accept and maintain human connections. The humor works as well as it does because the whimsy and eccentricity in the film is grounded in compassion rather than mockery.

Isn’t It Romantic?

The Lovers

by George Wolf

Just who are The Lovers?

Michael and his mistress Lucy? Mary and her boyfriend Robert? Or, could it be Michael and Mary, even after all those years of marriage?

Credit writer/director Azazel Jacobs for turning the romantic dramedy inside out, weaving sly writing and touching performances into a thoroughly charming take on the resilience of love and the frustrating struggle to pin it down.

Tracy Letts and Debra Winger are both wonderful as Michael and Mary, a dispassionate husband and wife who have grown to give each other only slightly more regard than the pieces of furniture in their suburban home.

Lucy (Melora Walters) is impatiently waiting for Michael to ask for a divorce, while Robert (Aiden Gillen) is expecting the same from Mary. Both are assured the time will finally come after the upcoming visit from Michael and Mary’s son Joel (Tyler Ross).

But when an old spark is reignited, suddenly it’s the Mr. and Mrs. who are sneaking away from their side pieces for some passionate alone time.

Such a premise could easily crumble into sitcom-ready zaniness, but Jacobs isn’t mining for cheap laughs. His script does have moments of effectively dry humor, but The Lovers is just as likely to uncover truths through a heavy silence.

Both Letts and Winger effortlessly wear the weariness of their characters. We may not know exactly why they’ve drifted apart, but the actors convey such a reliable authenticity we are rooting for Michael and Mary almost immediately.

The Lovers is sneaky in its casual nature. Through subtle storytelling and stellar performances, it finds meaning in places rarely explored this effectively, and a gentle confidence that frayed emotions can still bond.