In writer/director John Patton Ford’s debut feature, we meet Emily at a job interview. She’s innocently asked about her past, to which she gives up information on a DUI, affirming that there’s nothing else to offer.
The man interviewing her opens a file telling her there is, in fact, more. She defends herself very bravely, admitting that she didn’t know they would have that much information on her and that they shouldn’t. She also says that he shouldn’t have tried to trick her. She stands, grabs her information from his desk, and leaves in a whirlwind of foul language.
Plaza’s face tells you very little but everything at the same time. She’s determined, a fighter. You’re immediately invested in this character from the opening scene because you see she’s gutsy and not to be messed with. You’re hooked. What will she do next? You’re in for finding out, that’s for sure.
She has gone to art school and is hampered with $70,000 in school loan debt. To try and pay them off, she delivers food. She gets a delivery fee of thirty dollars. An opportunity to make $200 an hour extra after her delivery gigs becomes available. She doesn’t know what the job is, but she can’t say no.
Plaza is most known for her work in comedy but here, she shines. If you thought she knew what she was doing to make you laugh, wait until she works you over with Emily. She’ll be working as a “Dummy Shopper.” She’s told by Theo Rossi’s character, Youcef, that she won’t be in danger but will be breaking the law. What she and the others are agreeing to do is purchase expensive items with stolen credit cards. They get paid when they bring the things back to Youcef and his team.
This one has a few twists, which will have you a nervous wreck. Plaza expertly handles Emily, making her both vulnerable and tough as nails. She’s so proficient that she’s asked to do a job the next day. She’s complex and layered, something you don’t reasonably expect from a criminal. But then, Emily isn’t really a criminal. She’s an artist who turned to the life of crime through necessity. She gets very good at it and gets close to Youcef. So much so that his partner, also his cousin, gets jealous and nervous. A whole new storyline emerges with this revelation.
Emily’s friend Liz (Megalyn Echikunwoke), who works in an ad agency, gets Emily an interview with her boss Alice, played by Gina Gershon. Emily couldn’t be more excited for the chance to work in a place where she’s no longer breaking the law, but after hearing the offer, she sees that it isn’t she who’s corrupt; it’s Alice who’s asking her to work for free for up to six months. This scene is magnificent, as are most in the film. Plaza is remarkable, proving she’s up to the task at hand, and she, much like Emily, can handle anything thrown her way.
The movie is abrasive and she’s around some rugged people throughout, but Emily takes what they have to give, not only becoming one of them but showing them up in the process. She’s told that she’s bad influence on Youcef, who she talks into challenging those who underestimate his talents and skill. The movie gets better and better, and this woman you’ve rooted for all this time? I can’t tell you what happens to her; suffice it to say, you better watch and find out. I assure you; you can’t miss this one.
Emily The Criminal
Written and Directed by: John Patton Ford
Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Theo Rossi, Megalyn Echikunwoke, and Gina Gershon
Rated: R (Brief Drug Use, Violence, Language)
Run Time: 97 Minutes
Genres: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Distributor: Roadside Attractions
*Roadside Attractions and Vertical Entertainment will release EMILY THE CRIMINAL exclusively in theaters on August 12, 2022