As a college grad, I perpetually lived with the fear that those credit card collectors strategically dodged over the phone would roll up on my apartment and cart me off in cuffs for my lack of financial responsibility. Very naive…I know. But, it’s the desperation mixed with feat that makes one in this position do and say some crazy things.
Emily (Aubrey Plaza) is saddled with student debt ($70k to be exact) and locked out of the job market due to a minor criminal record. Desperate for income, she takes a shady gig as a “dummy shopper,” buying goods with stolen credit cards supplied by a middleman named Youcef (Theo Rossi). Faced with a series of dead-end job interviews, Emily soon finds herself seduced not only by the quick cash and illicit thrills of black market capitalism, but also by her ardent mentor Youcef.
Writer-director John Patton Ford’s taut thriller follows Emily from the margins of the corporate gig economy to the borderlands of the Los Angeles underworld. Emily the Criminal keeps sharp focus on its ambitious and increasingly reckless protagonist.
Aubrey Plaza, gives a nervy, committed performance, transforming Emily from an embittered temp worker into a stone-cold thief. She is a boss for the entire film ultimately creating her journey on her terms. Her performance is a bold, inspiring and confident of woman desperately attempting to gain control of a life spun out by virtue of her choices. Rossi is disarmingly vulnerable as her partner in crime making them both two the major reasons this film works on every visceral level.
Now streaming on Netflix, Emily the Criminal may leave millions of college students scheming to climb out of financial mess acerbated by an unforgiving economy. But, what cinematic ride to take in the meantime.