Movie Kajillionaire Ending Discussed and Explained

Movie Kajillionaire Ending Discussed and Explained - because this is a movie everyone needs to watch immediately. Man I loved this film.
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This movie review is going to write itself. Kajillionaire is the rare movie that will be a new ‘go to’ movie recommendation for me for the foreseeable future. Kajillionaire is a quirky, strange, film about grifters who collide with an individual who inadvertently turns their world upside down. If I had my druthers, THiNC. would only feature movies like Kajillionaire from beginning to end. Deeply affecting. Incredibly profound. Enjoyably edgy films. This is literally the sweet spot movie for this blog. Literally 10 out of 10. And yet, it isn’t a perfect film. But it’s comfortable in that imperfection. It wears that imperfection perfectly. If that makes any sense at all. Literally, I cannot recommend this movie enough. So let’s do this thing… we’ll walk through the movie, the details, and then we’ll talk about the intrinsic meaning, the epiphany worthy moments, and the overall perfection that is Kajillionaire. Alright – Movie Kajillionaire Ending Discussed and Explained!! Let’s go.

Now, if you haven’t seen this film. Stop. Go no further. Do not watch this trailer that I am helpfully providing as a barrier between unsuspecting eyes and the spoilers below. Just see this as a demarcation. A stop sign to keep you from going further until you click one of these links right here:

OK, glad we got that out of our system, now we can get down to the brilliance that is Kajillionaire.

Movie Kajillionaire Ending Discussed and Explained

I think I should probably do some breathing exercises or something. Or maybe some sort of tantric calming exercise in order to slow myself down. I’ve literally got like 20 pages of notes, and while you guys are very patient with my normal 3,000 word walkthroughs, I probably don’t think it’s in anyone’s best interest for me to churn out a 10,000 word opus to Kajillionaire. But I literally could trip and fall and output an 75-page e-book on this movie.

The movie opens with Robert (played by the brilliant Richard Jenkins – The Shape of Water), Teresa (Debra Winger – Terms of Endearment), and their daughter, Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood – West World). All three are a mess. But Old Dolio is a train-wreck of a car crash of a mess. This family skims across the top of life, living marginally, by pulling off super small grifts of various types. Mail in order fraud. Sweepstakes scams. Post office and mail theft. Airport luggage scams. It’s just one stupid petty crime after another. But the biggest driver of the plot is that they are behind on their $500 monthly rent for their horrid apartment, that gets flooded by suds daily at specific times of day by the manufacturing business above. They need three months worth of rent, and they need it soon. But the “heists” that these guys are capable of generally yield tens of dollars… not hundreds of dollars… let alone 1500 dollars. They are not in a good way.

Well, when Old Dolio masterminds an airport luggage heist – they jet off to New York, and then head right back again, all with the express purpose of having Old Dolio’s luggage stolen. On the return home, they connect with an outgoing individual named Melanie (played by Gina Rodriguez – Annihilation) who is excited about the possibility of getting caught up in an Ocean’s Eleven lifestyle. But when Old Dolio realizes her heist plan probably won’t deliver the cash until long after the rent is due – they are going to have to come up with another plan, and fast.

That is when Melanie gets the idea to con some of the old people that are desperate for love, and attention. They’ll deliver their eye glasses, and then spend time with these hard up people, all while searching their apartments for checkbooks and other valuable collectables the individuals might hand over. After a few quasi-successful sessions, they encounter one sad individual who is just desperate for the sounds of normalcy in his apartment as he attempts to die. Possibly one of the most brilliantly poignant moments filmed ever. These people are attempting to steal from this man who is trying to die. His checkbook is probably in his room with him, so they needed to give him what he needed to pass away, which was the facade of normalcy, which this family is literally impossible of pulling off normally. But in order to help this man die, to get his cash, they make it happen. Which, only intensifies Old Dolio’s massive longing for said normalcy. She doesn’t know that’s what she is longing for, but it’s definitely clear that she wants the normal love, and tender affirmations, that most other family’s give their children. But when Old Dolio receives the $1,575 dollars (that amount is significant, file it away for later) luggage scam check early – she freaks out and leaves.

Now, unclear where Old Dolio has gotten to – the two parents and Melanie head back to the apartment – such as it is. And there, in the “bathroom”, is the enormous hot tub that they bought for $150 down a few days before. And it is then that Robert hits on Melanie, asking her to “have a bath… what, are you surprised?” Melanie rejoins with, “I’m the least surprised I’ve ever been in my entire life.” Which tells us a lot about Melanie in one single sentence. The first is, we know that Melanie has been dealing with guys her whole life. Putting down their unwanted sexual advances, nipping their stupid come backs, and amateurish comments for years. This advance from Old Dolio’s father isn’t surprising at all. But there’s another revealing detail this comment uncovers. And that is that she’s known that Robert and Teresa are the worst kinds of shams, hucksters, and con-men imaginable. Worse, she’s know just how abusive they have been to Old Dolio since they first met. And this shines new light on Melanie entirely. She isn’t there for the “money” or the cons, but rather, she is there for Old Dolio. Sure, maybe she might have originally been interested in what these two weird people on the plane were all about… but it morphs into something different along the way.

Later, after Old Dolio returns, and her mother is holding a plate of crackers, and her dad is acting weird, Teresa calls Melanie hon reflexively. Old Dolio melts down a little. She tells her mother that she has never once called her Hon, or sweetie, or any other tender term of endearment (pardon the movie trivia pun). Old Dolio tells her mother, that if she’s able to also call her hon as well, she will give over the $1,575. But her mother isn’t able to do it. Melanie though is, she says, “For $1,575, I’ll call you ‘hon’, let’s go… and don’t look back.” So the two bounce, and they head back to Melanie’s apartment. Where Melanie tells Old Dolio that not only will she call her “Hon”, and “Sweetheart,” she’ll also do everything in the list that her mother sarcastically asked if she wanted her to do. Make pancakes, do the stomach crawl, presents with ribbon, do a little dance, etc., etc. So in the morning, Melanie makes Old Dolio pancakes. Then after that, Melanie tells Old Dolio that they’ll go some place dark for the stomach crawl. (Old Dolio, in order to get $20 on a little job earlier in the film, agreed to go to a positive parenting class, where she learned that newborns will crawl up their mother’s stomachs to her breast, if placed on her belly. The class also gave a number of positive statics that accompany early bonding with the mother… which, Old Dolio found out later, her mother didn’t do. Shocker.)

Where was I? Oh, yes, a dark place, which was a gas station’s bathroom, replete with busted lights. And while there, Old Dolio begins to see stars it’s so dark. She believes they are both dead. It becomes an epiphanic almost religious experience for Old Dolio. And as the chaos of the earthquake was ending Old Dolio tells Melanie that she will miss life. She’ll miss the sex, and the good pancakes, dancing, etc. But she will not miss it because she was only skimming through life. Not partaking deeply in it.

Kajillionaire’s “Benefits”‘ of Skimming

Let’s talk about this a minute. The idea of “carpe diem” is widely known and understood. I’d be it might be the only Latin most people know. This idea of plucking the day, or seizing it, talks about how we should enjoy the life we are given. It was an idea first written about by Horace, a popular lyricist and poet born over 2,000 years ago. It’s an idea that sort of lead to an almost Epicurean point of view without all the buckets of throw up and drunken benders. Seizing all of life, and experiencing what you can from it is a widely understood ideal of the modern world. But this idea of skimming is almost the opposite philosophical ideal. What would the literal philosophical ideal to Carpe Diem? (I literally have no idea, this is not a rhetorical question.) I just spent the last thirty minutes delving into my philosophy text books and the only thing that I can think might be the antonym to Carpe Diem might be Memento Mori (which, as an aside, since this is a movie blog – is the name of the the short story that Christopher Nolan based his screenplay on. You can find that clever short story over at Esquire.) which literally means “remember death”. So this term is sort of taken as the philosophical antecedent to Seize the Day… i.e.: be cognizant of death. Be aware of it. It’s always waiting. Right? It sort of feels like Old Dolio and her parents have ascribed to a life lived in the shadow of their inevitable death.

And there is something to that. Being aware of one’s own mortality. To treat life with respect. But Old Dolio has managed to take Memento Mori, and this idea to the extreme of epicureanism-inverted. Right? Instead of consuming the marrow of life, and puking it out in pursuit of every experience imaginable, they have hidden from life. But I always thought the opposite of epicureanism was stoicism? Maybe I’ve gotten it wrong all along, maybe the opposite of epicureanism is Old Dolio-ism?!? Or something. You get the larger point I’m making here.

Robert and Teresa have somehow been hurt by life, and have ultimately retreated from it. How do I know that? Well, other than it being obvious, we learn that at one point Robert and Teresa ran a coupon book company that collapsed, and this shocks Old Dolio to her core. She literally doesn’t even believe her parents are telling the truth: “Can I see this coupon book?” Eventually though they abandoned this life of living the “normal life.” Her parents though once were normal. Or more normal than they are now anyway. Something shellacked them, and they have retreated. They’ve left the corporate 9to5 and now they are just finding enough to get by each and every day. They are the Anti-Epicureans. And they’ve decided to not participate because they are done being hurt by life. Okay, we’ll stop there for now… but you are getting where I will be going once I’m finished walking through the movie’s deets.

The Ending of Kajillionaire Explained

The final showdown of Kajillionaire is epic. In one corner you have Robert and Teresa. Both are neurotically, and manically, possessive about their daughter… I think? Or maybe just neurotically manic? We don’t know yet until this face off concludes. And in the other corner is Melanie. She has spent most of the movie subtly watching, and listening somewhat behind the scenes as this weird family just continues to surprise. Now, Melanie and Old Dolio are working through this ad hoc therapy accidentally prescribed by Teresa.

Old Dolio and Melanie aren’t doing great because Old Dolio blurted out that Melanie was just a con all along. (Which, mirrors a comment that Robert made to his wife when he’s about to hit on Melanie. Robert is pretty sure Melanie has been fully used up – so now? Let’s sexually hit on her. Why not, she’s about to burn us down anyway. Why not?) That her family was just going to empty her bank account and disappear. This really hurt Melanie – which, is pretty reasonable. But Old Dolio realizes she’s done something wrong and offers to smash her finger.

And it is then that Old Dolio’s parents show up in an attempt to make amends with their daughter. They’ve come with 18 distinct gifts. 18 years that they’ve missed. And they also invite Melanie and Old Dolio out to dinner to celebrate as well. Suddenly it feels like her parents have learned the error of their ways? Maybe. And during the dinner, which is basically cordial, Robert leads everyone in singing happy birthday, and then stands to speak. “We were upset,” he says. “but it was a base response. It was just fear. Then after the big one happened…” He continues, “I thought it was insincere to treat you like a child and I thought we agreed on that.” And as the evening concludes, they go back to Melanie’s house and tuck her in. Old Dolio offers to make pancakes for them in the morning. Everything has completely U-turned for Old Dolio. Everything seems different now. Her parents are sincerely trying.

Then comes the best moment in the movie. (Heck, one of the best moments in any move ever. And kudos to Miranda July – 100% because I’ve been tearing the end of this movie apart like it is a chess game and my life depends on it.) Melanie stands by where the money from the luggage scam is hidden, and says: “If the money is gone, they are monsters and this whole night was a lie.” Old Dolio’s retort? “But if it’s there, then this is all real.”

So we have two options. Monsters – or they love her. But WAIT! There is a last second third option on the table. “But wait, if it’s just my third, then it means we can only be how we are. But we love you and…” And with that the other shoe drops. Melanie opens the hiding spot and there is all the money.

At the moment I watched that, I happened to be working on a short story to give to a gift to someone… just a strange little story about a pick-pocket living off of other people in Victoria Station, London. The story was all but done. And I watched this movie. When you are working with a blank canvass of possibilities, and are in need of an ending with a punch? And you watch a Russian Chess Master play an end game like this one? Out of no where? Let’s just say I threw my short story away and started over, this time I worked from the inside out, and STARTED with the ending. Because an ending like this one changes you. Or it should.

Where are we? Oh, yes, we have three options on the table. 1) Monsters. 2) They’re changed. 3) Nothing can change. Right? And the money is all there. So option 2. Right? That was the agreement… correct? They’ve changed. Old Dolio will go back to her parents who love her dearly. And there will be no hard feelings between Old Dolio and Melanie. But Old Dolio really needs to go back to her transformed parents. Then they fall asleep.

In the morning Old Dolio and Melanie head out to start the pancakes and then say their goodbyes. But EVERYTHING in the movie has been heading to the ending where Melanie saves Old Dolio from her monster parents that have been mindlessly abusing her since she was born and only Melanie can see it. But the money was still there. She’s played out. It’s over. And yet, when they walk out into Melanie’s apartment, literally everything in the entire house is gone. Robert and Teresa stole every single last thing that wasn’t in Melanie’s bedroom. It’s all gone. Like I said, to have July setup the audience that perfectly, and then to wreck the entirety of the equation so effortlessly is just such fantasticness I can’t even see straight. That is screenplay magic. It’s out there with Se7en, Arrival, and The Usual Suspects as one of the best surprise endings ever. (If you have an issue with these 4 movie endings as 4 of the best endings of all time, just click this and move along. I don’t have time for that particularly flaccid conversation.)

To make matters even more rich – as the movie ends – Melanie and Old Dolio return all 18 gifts. And when they do, what is the total to be reimbursed? $525. Boom. Mic drop. What are Robert and Teresa saying to Old Dolio and the audience? First thing they are saying is that Melanie is a con and nothing else because there is no place in our hearts for anyone outside of ourselves. The second thing they are saying is to Old Dolio – and that was explained the night before when Old Dolio said – and option three is if there is $525 in there – then, “Nothing can change.” They are saying to Old Dolio, nothing can change. She’s 100% right. Her parents aren’t going to do anything differently, and that’s just the way it is.

The interesting thing about this movie is that all families have a bit of cult-like-ness going for them. We are insular and protective. We setup rules, and mythoses that decide how we respond to threats and how we actively tell ourselves what matters and what doesn’t. And Kajillionaire shows us a family that believes that the world has been suckered into believing in things that don’t matter. And while some of that is true, they’ve taken it to an extreme that is completely false. Yes, the world can be a horrible place. But it can also be redemptive and kind simultaneously. And to dismiss it solely as hurtful is tossing the metaphorical baby out with the bath water.

To say I loved this movie is to be the understatement of the millennia. This was a glorious film that played out perfectly in pretty much every way.

Edited by: CY