Scammers fascinate us. In a world where those who do things the “right” way are so rarely rewarded for following the rules, there’s an appeal to the fraudulent approach.
I’ve only met a few scammers, but I think back on the audacity of their claims with a certain amount of awe: people who pretended to be enrolled in a school they no longer attended; people who lied about their relationships, their jobs, their bank balances. The most unnerving scams are the ones that seem to eschew money, sapping a victim’s time, attention and affection instead.
We try to understand, attracted by the scammer’s bravado and repulsed by the feeling we could just as easily fall prey. Who could do that? we ask ourselves. And why?
In Kajillionaire, Miranda July’s newest film, the motivations behind the scamming are clear, even if their origins are not. A family of Los Angeles grifters float through life on various skims to simply get by. They’ve developed a repertoire of sometimes very complicated methodologies to make a few bucks here and there, perfectly illustrated in the film’s candy-colored opening scene.
Robert (Richard Jenkins), Theresa (Debra Winger) and Old Dolio (a deep-voiced, androgynous Evan Rachel Wood) wait outside a post office for a window of opportunity. Theresa’s “now!” launches Old Dolio into a parkour-like approach to the post office’s front door, jumping, rolling and crouching to avoid the watchful eyes of cameras and workers. The elaborate entrance allows her to reach through a post office box and grab at whatever fills the nearby slots—ultimately, not much.