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Emily the Criminal review: Aubrey Plaza scores as a gig-economy hustler

Crime thrillers want to insist that crime doesnt pay, that is pretty rich, since staying on the straight and narrow isnt exactly lucrative either. While so several glorified Old Testament cautionary tales posit dollar-signs-over-the-eyes greed because the motive for leaping in to the choppy waters of illegal transgression, anyone just looking to get by in the rigged system of American capitalism might draw another conclusion. Why play by the guidelines once the only solution to win and maybe even to survive would be to break them?

Thats the question mulled, early and frequently, by the title character of Emily the Criminal, a cost-effective gig-economy noir from writer-director John Patton Ford. Emily (Aubrey Plaza, reliably and superbly barbed) is really a couple of years out of college and buried in $75,000 of student debt. In early stages, she makes a telephone call to the loan office to discover why a recently available payment isnt reflected on her behalf statement. Works out it went entirely to the interest, not the main. Its a scene guaranteed to inspire mass shudders of traumatic recognition from an audience very acquainted with the Sisyphean ordeal of repaying predatory lenders.

Aubrey Plaza spikes her signature hostility with a sympathetic weariness.

Emily, a graphic designer by training however, not trade, includes a handful of felonies on her behalf record youthful mistakes that brought her time at university to a detailed and left her largely unhirable. To create ends meet, she works extended hours for little pay being an independent contractor at a catering company. Plaza has played a lot more than her share of tough, testy, take-no-shit customers, but here she spikes her signature hostility with a sympathetic weariness: Facing another dimmed by insurmountable financial obligation, Emily has hardened right into a classic Aubrey Plaza antiheroine, without savings and also fewer fucks left to provide.

Theo Rossi looks back at Aubrey Plaza in a van.

Actually, so slim are Emilys occupational prospects that whenever a coworker tips her off to a chance to create a quick, tax-free $200, she barely hesitates to check out the lead. That is her induction in to the lawless world of dummy shopping, a scam that entails using stolen charge card information to get expensive items from stores to allow them to then be flipped on the road. The operation is run by the cool-headed Youcef (Theo Rossi), who doesnt so much seduce Emily right into a life of crime as gently open the entranceway to it. And will we blame her for stepping through? Youcefs scheme is actually a shadow version of her legit independent contractor work; she’s no protections in this field either, however the hours tend to be more flexible and the rates far better.

Ford lends this petty outlaw milieu an attractive neorealism, both in the small-potatoes scale of the crimes being committed and in the observational bob of his handheld camera, which trails Emily through the intricacies of a strip-mall empire of larceny and identity theft. The film flirts with a Scorsesian procedural interest, but there arent many conspiratorial details to obsess over here the mechanics of Youcefs organized crime are almost comically straightforward and uncomplicated. They do, however, lend themselves for some crackerjack suspense sequences, just like the moment where Emily must complete the purchase of a sports vehicle and obtain away in the mere eight minutes before her charge card arises as stolen, or the harrowing home invasion she invites when agreeing to meet up some buyers too near her apartment.

Emilys traipse into lawbreaking gets the specificity and the mundanity of a tale yanked from the news.

Outdated flip phones situate Emily the Criminal within an unspecified recent times just one single element that provides the film the misleading vibe of true crime, when actually its a completely fictional concoction. Seriously, its almost hard to trust all this isnt adapted from the magazine article. Emilys traipse into lawbreaking gets the specificity and the mundanity of a tale yanked from the news. In addition, it, unfortunately, slides in its second half in to the sort of generically urgent melodrama screenwriters will most likely impose on interesting real-world events that dont want it. Emilys eventual romance with Youcef and the storys ultimate tilt into backstabbing and violence feel artificial compared to Fords more convincing, low-to-the-ground depiction of someone pulled inexorably right into a rather unglamorous criminal enterprise.

Veneer of grittiness aside, Emily the Criminal is ultimately something of a fantasy, shrewdly directed at a postgraduate workforce crushed by debt, a bleak job market, and the sucker bet of tethering your own future to employers who see you as only cheap, expendable labor. It really is, put simply, a caper for the age of late-stage capitalism, free from any moralistic hand-wringing concerning the true cost of crime. And in Plaza, it finds the perfect microphone for the outrage its channeling. Her furious outbursts throughout a couple of bookending job interviews tend to be more than relatable. Theyre simply the lament of a generation choking on false promises, and ready for the desperate measures needed by our desperate times.

Emily the Criminal is currently playing in select theaters. For more of A.A. Dowds writing, please visit his Authory page.

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