August 22, 2022

GENRE | Crushing Debt – Aubrey Plaza Steals 'Emily the Criminal'

"You're a very bad influence."
Aubrey Plaza John Patton Ford | Emily the Criminal
Roadside Attractions / Vertical Entertainment
Novice filmmaker John Patton Ford crafts a tension-filled working-class neo-noir crime drama starring the captivating Aubrey Plaza (also a producer) as a struggling millennial woman riddled with debt—the eponymous Emily the Criminal. It's a stirring lead performance focused on situational desperation set against the thick of the current gig economy.

Due to past felony charges, Plaza's antihero Emily gets locked out of the job market and tries to make a living by taking delivery shifts. She's lured and then exhilarated into minor credit card fraud to pay her mounting bills while meeting unsavoury characters along the way. Her entry into a life of crime is hardly glamorous but she's rewarded for her hustle and sees a hopeful solution to her troubles.

A charming Theo Rossi co-stars as a Lebanese immigrant with big dreams who empowers Emily into managing her own scams before their natural attraction complicates matters. They have a natural chemistry on screen set in an insular but fully-realized underground L.A. criminal world that feels so lived-in from ramshackle storefronts to messy makeshift offices, strip mall parking lots, and interacting with suspicious strangers.

Emily the Criminal is a sharp and appealing throwback to a previous era of neorealistic grim crime thrillers but anchored in specific contemporary twists with a standout central performance. This feels like an ideal dramatic starring vehicle for Plaza's confident charisma. It's easy to empathize with her and Emily's seemingly unending cycle of debt. Ford's sharp direction elevates the standard but well-told material with enough style in telling its themes.


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