Emily the Criminal stands next to Maverick for the best thriller of the year. That’s because of Aubrey Plaza, who plays the anti-hero for our times
The eponymous bad girl of the Sundance breakout Emily the Criminal is as much a victim of society’s neglect as she is of her own self-centeredness. Yet Emily (Aubrey Plaza) is self-sufficient and capable of kicking serious butt, not in a professional, martial-arts way, but in a way that mirrors her determination.
It’s not difficult to see why she is easily seduced from food-delivery work to credit card scamming given the $70K in school loans, half a degree, and her permanent record of aggravated assault and DUI. The clarity and tension with which writer/director John Patton Ford unfolds Emily’s arc are admirable–anyone in the audience can immediately identify with her dilemma-to remain poor or to make enough to erase debt and live comfortably.
Emily’s only real friend is her old college chum, Liz (Megalyn Echikunwoke), who gets her an ad-agency interview with a mean womansplaining exec (Gina Gershon) that serves as the last testament to what Emily will suffer for every job she interviews: facing her criminal record and being offered, in this case, an internship for almost a half year without pay.
Hooking up with an enterprise that scams credit cards is almost a given; hooking up with the middle manager, Yusuf (Theo Rossi), is also a given, given that he is handsome, charming, and warm hearted. The drama actually comes alive when she begins scamming, showing a natural talent and aggressive enough, unlike other modern heroines, to escape by wit or just smarts with the help of a taser or boxcutters.
Throughout Emily the Detective, Plaza plays a decent millenial who has been buffeted by fate and her own stern affect to find salvation in accelerating crime, for which she has talent. Emily is not really the criminal that Yusuf’s colleagues are; rather she’s a bright woman caught in a social satire both trenchant and scary.
You’ll love Plaza in this role. Just pray she can move from her deadpan characters to a variety of strong women. Like Ryan Gosling in Drive, she’s impossible to ignore. She’s that good.
Review by jdesando