COMIC DRAMA; 1hr 46min
STARRING: Evan Rachel Wood, Debra Winger, Gina Rodriguez, Richard Jenkins
Don’t ask: from left, Wood, Winger and Jenkins
The trials of a low-rung grifter have to be tiring enough. Factor in not being any good at it and we’re talking unending grind in writer-director Miranda July’s deadpan fringe probe. Small wonder the Dyne family is a study in glum — Robert (Jenkins, perfectly resigned), his wife, Theresa (a drably unrecognisable Winger), and their down-in-the-mouth, 26-year-old daughter, Old Dolio (Wood). Nutshell history: Old Dolio was named after a lottery-winning vagrant in a failed ploy to cash in on his money after he died. Say no more.
Unmoored in a lacklustre Los Angeles, the Dynes drift like a shabby school of fish through the shallows of small-beer scams, dossing down at night in an abandoned office adjoining a bubble factory. This living situation is far from ideal: the office walls overflow with suds they wordlessly scoop up with buckets in what is plainly a familiar ritual, plus they can’t come up with the rent.
Their perpetual downturn appears to take an upswing, however, when, while soldiering on with a racket involving “lost” airline luggage, Robert and Theresa find themselves a bubbly accomplice and possible victim (Rodriguez as Melanie). Old Dolio is instantly resentful, and what Melanie sees in any of them is a mystery: with their flatlined personalities, judgemental otherness and negligible prospects, the Dynes are a hard slog. But Melanie is open, curious and eager, and when Old Dolio is transformed after an imagined near-death experience during one of the earth tremors to which the beset characters are routinely subjected, her cage is cracked open by the realisation that openness holds everything she needs. And right there, with her tart-sweet worldview and keen sense of the ridiculous, July (You and Me and Everyone We Know) reveals herself as a romantic at heart, spinning straw into tender threads of gold when all else looks to have been lost.