Combustible Celluloid Review - Emily the Criminal (2022), John Patton Ford, John Patton Ford, Aubrey Plaza, Theo Rossi, Bernardo Badillo, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Jonathan Avigdori, Gina Gerhson, Wesley Han, Brandon Sklenar, Ben Rodgers, Amje Elharden, Janice Sonia Lee
Combustible Celluloid
 
With: Aubrey Plaza, Theo Rossi, Bernardo Badillo, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Jonathan Avigdori, Gina Gerhson, Wesley Han, Brandon Sklenar, Ben Rodgers, Amje Elharden, Janice Sonia Lee
Written by: John Patton Ford
Directed by: John Patton Ford
MPAA Rating: R for language, some violence and brief drug use
Running Time: 93
Date: 08/12/2022
IMDB

Emily the Criminal (2022)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Debt Peeves

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A feature writing and directing debut by John Patton Ford — a great name for a filmmaker — Emily the Criminal hits some familiar indie movie beats, moments that are intended to feel random, but instead feel a bit too planned. But, as Emily, Aubrey Plaza is such an explosive device, a coiled bundle of skepticism and rage, that she blasts her scenes into life. There's little of her trademark wry, cynical humor here. This is a fully-fleshed out character and a highlight of her career.

Her Emily is deeply in debt from school loans — in an early scene, she calls to find out why her meager $400 payment hasn't been applied to the balance (it has only been applied to the interest) — and has a felony assault on her record (a terrible boyfriend called the cops on her). She can now only get grim contract work delivering food. A co-worker gives her a number, and she tries it. A soft-spoken, darkly hypnotic Youcef (Theo Rossi), a Lebanese immigrant, explains that she can earn $200 for taking a fake credit card, buying a TV, and bringing it back. She does, and agrees to do a bigger job, a car, for $2000. Soon she's working for Youcef, bringing in several thousand at a time. There's also chemistry between them that could prove dangerous.

Emily is no pushover. Several times, she turns the tables on those who underestimate her, but she can do nothing within the system. Her every attempt to do anything legit falls on its face, and she must cross a line to achieve anything. The movie is at its best depicting this broken system, this un-American Dream that keeps young people locked out and struggling. (In one sequence, she gets a long-awaited-for job interview at a graphic design firm and learns that it will, indeed, be an unpaid internship.) Ultimately, Emily the Criminal is an ironic title. It's a deeply angry film whose hero is not gonna take it. If the system is wrong, then anything she does can only be right.

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